The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

September 5th, 2010 - 23 SUNDAY - C

Penitential Rite:

Lord Jesus, You invite is to follow you in the sincerity of our hearts,
Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, advise us to make a sincere revision of our lives,
Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, ask us to go further than our human capacities,
Lord, have mercy.

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life.   Amen.

Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9b,12-17; Luke 14:25-33

"GREAT CROWDS ACCOMPANIED JESUS on his way..."  During his public life, Jesus had some of the star quality that we recognize in personalities who capture the public's imagination. It seems natural that the crowds following Jesus were sensation seekers. They were out to get something from Jesus, not altogether unlike some of those who today converge in large numbers wherever some modern "miracle" or "apparition" has been reported. And, indeed, how many of us look on God or Jesus as someone to turn to, when we want something we cannot get ourselves?

Challenging words

With the people in today's Gospel Jesus suddenly stops in his tracks. He turns round and says words that were quite shocking to his hearers and sound pretty harsh to us too: "If anyone comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes, and his own life, that person cannot be my follower/disciple."

1.    None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all of his possessions.” These are quite uncompromising words from Our Lord. Over the centuries a number of great saints have taken these words and others like them and done precisely what Jesus asks. They have literally given up their possessions and followed the Lord. Whatever our state in life the challenge of following Jesus is laid before us.

Even given a decision to follow Jesus in a radical way we are still left with the question: What does Christ mean when he says: “None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all of his possessions”? The question won’t go away. It demands an answer. It is a question each of us has to work on.

Clearly material possessions can be an impediment to following the Gospel—Christ certainly thinks so! But there again, we live in the world and we have to provide for our families. Providing them not only with the necessities of life but also with a certain quality of life that enables them to flourish as human beings. And by this we include the whole package, a decent home, proper education, ability to travel and a necessary amount of leisure and personal interests—all of which require financing.

But this doesn’t mean that we can’t live simply. And surely a certain simplicity of life is an important hallmark of the Christian.

There has to be direct involvement with the poor. We are talking here about more than just generosity, for in life it is surely authentic relationships that matter most.

A particular question that arises here is whether our Western lifestyle is carried on at the expense of the poor in other parts of the globe. It is our clear Christian duty to ensure that we do not become implicated in the covert exploitation of others.

2.    The Jews, like a number of other ethnic communities, are recognized for their close family ties. What were they and what are we to make of such an extraordinary statement? And surely we have an incomprehensible contradiction here. Jesus, who tells us to love our enemies, now tells us to hate our nearest and dearest! Is this the same Jesus who cured the mother-in-law of Peter? The same Jesus who told the story of the Good Samaritan? The same Jesus who enjoyed the hospitality of his good friends, Mary and Martha?

I suppose the majority of us follow a lifestyle largely dictated by the surrounding culture and our goals are the goals of that culture and, somewhere on the side, we try to fit in some aspects of Christian living. In most of our modern, urban societies that lifestyle is for the most part competitive, consumerist and materialistic. We would not want our Christianity to get in the way of that. But it is precisely to people like us that Jesus is speaking.

It is quite obvious from the overall context of Luke's gospel that Jesus could not mean us literally to hate our parents, brothers and sisters. Nor does Jesus literally mean us to hate our own lives. People who feel that way effectively commit suicide. On the contrary we are called to have love and compassion for every single person, irrespective of who they are or what their relationship may be to us. True love casts out fear. What Jesus is saying today is putting in another way what we have already seen in discussing other passages, such as, the story of the Good Samaritan and the Lord's Prayer.

“Those who come to me cannot be my disciples
unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well.”

These words of Jesus are simply a provocative way of saying that our priority in life must be to Jesus and to his work of completing God’s kingdom on earth.

They are simply a provocative way of saying that as followers of Jesus; our responsibility extends beyond our flesh-and-blood family to the entire human family.

They are simply a provocative way of saying that if we want to follow Jesus, we must follow him not only into church on Sunday morning but also into the marketplace on Monday morning and during the whole week as well.

Because: “The Lord is first, my family and my friends are second, and I am third.’’

3.    But there is one more dimension of Jesus’s words. The vocation. Catholic Catechism says:

"Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God's family, to live in conformity with His way of life: For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother. Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord's call to one of their children to follow Him in virginity for the sake of the Kingdom in the consecrated life or in priestly ministry." (CCC 2233)

Who better can do something about the vocations than married couples and families? God chooses to call men and women out of any circumstance to serve the Church as priests and religious, but these men and women must first know the freedom necessary to respond to the Lord's call with joyful self-giving. They must know something about the possibility of being called, their vocation should be supported by their family, and accepted.

Prayer of the faithful:

Celebrant:           My sisters and brothers,       Jesus invitation to carry our cross is a difficult one, but our faith in him assures us of the glory which awaits us.

Celebrant:           Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free. As Saviour of the world bring life to all who need your mercy for you are Lord, for ever and ever.

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