A young Kenyan woman-and her small children come to worship in the village church. Every day was a struggle for her and her impoverished family.
At the offering, the African mother removes her ragged sandals. When the offering basket is passed to her, she stops and places it upon the ground. Reverently, humbly, gently, she steps with her whole body into the basket -and prays quietly. A hush falls over the small congregation.
After a few moments, the woman steps out the basket, picks it up and passes it on.
In this brief, dignified and startlingly honest action, this poor Kenyan woman captured the essence of discipleship. Jesus calls forth from those who would be his followers a total, unambiguous commitment. The Gospel of forgiveness, reconciliation, justice and peace is not a collection of pious words we commit to memory but a spirit to which we commit our lives. We cannot be disciples by being mere spectators of God’s presence; authentic discipleship calls us to become involved in the hard work of building the kingdom of God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to let go of our own needs and wants in order to free ourselves to do truly great things for the love of God. In preferring compassion over profit, in operating out of a sense of gratitude rather than ambition, in seeking reconciliation before revenge, we are able to experience the unique joy that can only be experienced in bringing the reign of God to reality in our own time and place.