4 Sept 2022 – 23rd Sunday (C)

4 Sept 2022 – 23rd Sunday (C)

Theme: To share the vision of Jesus we need detachment from our possessions. Without the spirit of detachment we cannot be full disciples.

(1) Wisdom 9:13-18

God gives us all the knowledge we need to be saved

For who can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail;
for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labour.;
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
Who has learned your counsel,
unless you have given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and people were taught what pleases you,
and were saved by wisdom.”

Responsorial: Psalm 89:3-6, 12-14, 17

R./: In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge

You turn men back in to dust
and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday, come and gone,
no more than a watch in the night. (R./)

You sweep men away like a dream,
like grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers:
by evening it withers and fades. (R./)

Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
Show pity to your servants. (R./)

In the morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
give success to the work of our hands. (R./)

(2) Philemon 9ff

Paul appeals to a wealthy convert, for the runaway slave Onesimus

I would rather appeal to you (Philemon) on the basis of love; and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, so that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.

Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother-especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

Jesus invites reflection, by two short parables

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”


Half-hearted Christianity

This gospel sets the homilist a real challenge. The listeners need no explanation of Christ’s words about carrying the cross, but they will be repelled by the words about “hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters” – a teaching that seems to fly in the face of natural affection. One of the following experiences might help.

(I) A priest went to Taizé with a group of young people. Among the many tales he brought back was this. One evening as the English-language visitors gathered for a general meeting he was asked to reserve two seats beside him. After repeatedly telling others that those seats were occupied he finally gave in and told the next pair: “Yes, these seats are free. Take them away with you,” which they did. From that moment he had peace. Eventually his companions returned to find their places vacant but without seats. They had no bother finding seats for themselves and returning to their reserved places. Everybody was happy with this arrangement. Sometimes we are so concerned with holding on to what we might need that we fail to see other’s needs and our opportunity to help.

(2) Another afternoon at Taizé the whole group had planned an outing. The rain poured all that day and there were many glum faces looking out from the various tents. Making the most of things, they decided to come together for an extra session of prayer and discussion. This turned out to be the most memorable event of the whole trip. Learning to adjust to unfulfilled plans, waning strength, failing health and uncertain fortunes, is a key to happiness and contentment. We are not masters of all we possess, e.g., talents, health and even life itself.

(3) Again at Taizé, two of the group were deaf. Not being able to hear is a great handicap, a barrier to be overcome. These two could have missed so much of the experience at Taizé, the music, the bells, the prayers, the sincerity of the group discussions. However, for the whole week they were able to participate through the help of their friends who relayed everything to them through signs and lipreading. There was a modern miracle of the deaf hearing, and the others discovered so much about themselves in the process.

(4) Many of the saints discovered their true freedom in the practice of voluntary poverty. Francis of Assisi comes to mind as the example par excellence. By renouncing all earthly possessions he discovered how much he possessed and shared with all of God’s creatures. All the teaching of Jesus is marked by this same spirit of freedom. Like prayer, voluntary poverty is a gift to be savoured and treasured.

(5) One of the two parables in the gospel, found only in Luke, might provide the basis for a homily. Building a tower is not a useless exercise in vanity. It had a practical use in the vineyard. A modern parallel might be a grain silo or shed. It is ironic that Luke and Jesus pick an example of progressive investment in farming to illustrate a lesson on detachment from property. Obviously, they approve of the venture as it shows where half measures will not do. Half-hearted Christianity is not a profitable affair either.

How God Treats His Friends

The ways of God are mysterious, and our inability to understand them is stressed in Today’s reading from the book of Wisdom, and were we seriously to consider the message of the other two readings we should perhaps find ourselves asking the question, why should St Paul, having devoted most of his life to the spread of the gospel of Christ, end up a prisoner in chains, with death by violence to follow. Or indeed, why should it be, as stated in the gospel reading, that in order to be a disciple of his Christ says we should carry a cross. Again and again, on our journey through life, we come up against the mystery of suffering, the mystery of the path of the cross which Christ calls us to tread.

One of the saints who suffered all her days, and despite this led a most active life, never allowing herself to be overcome by her troubles, was St Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters. She was an extraordinary person, uniting sublime and mystical holiness with practical good sense and humour. When she heard that her close associate, St John of the Cross, was imprisoned, and being punished as a renegade from the Carmelite Order, she wrote, “God has a terrible way of treating his friends, and in truth he does them no wrong, since that was the way he treated his own Son, Jesus Christ.” If Christ then, the all-holy Son of God, submitted to suffering and death, then we his servants cannot expect to be treated any differently from our Master. And this he states for us quite categorically. “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

We should not picture God as being one who takes an unholy delight in seeing his children suffer. If no earthly father worthy of the name would adopt such an attitude, then how much more so our heavenly Father, who sent his Son to show his love for us, to the extent of sacrificing himself for us. This raises the question, why did Christ, in compliance with the Father’s will, have to suffer? Indeed, why should any of us have to suffer? We can approach the problem differently by saying that all sufferings, especially those associated with death, are concrete evidence of the mystery of evil, our tendency to upset God’s purpose, in other words to commit sin. At the end of the creation story in Genesis (1:31), we are told that “God saw all he had made and indeed it was good.” We can therefore say that everything is truly good in so far as it serves God’s purpose. It is blindingly obvious that, both physically and morally, the world is not all good. The culprit is sin, which is not only the root of all evil, but whose very existence is now denied by so many.

Nowhere do the gospels suggest that Jesus wanted suffering for its own sake. His prayer in Gethsemane was, “Father if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me” (Mt 26:39). But the example of Jesus, as well as that of his sinless mother, shows us that it is impossible, even for just and virtuous people, to avoid suffering and the effects of sin in the world. When Paul begged God to cure him of his ailments the answer he got was, “My grace is all you need.” (2 Cor 12:9f). Later he would write: “I gladly to suffer for you, and in my body do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church” (Col 1:24).

Responsible planning

The parables of Jesus are many, but his teaching remains the same: anyone who begins an important project without knowing if he has the means and energy for the task, risks ending up with a mess on his hands. No farmer starts building a guard-tower for his vineyard, without first calculating what the job requires. If the project remains unfinished, he will  look ridiculous to his neighbours. No ruler will go to war against a powerful enemy, without first calculating the chances of final victory.

At first glance, this seems to recommend a prudence and caution far from the boldness he ordinarily asks from his followers. But that is not really the message of those  comparisons. The mission he gives his followers is so important that nobody should commit to it without discernment. Jesus calls for a mature reflection.The two protagonists of the parables should sit down to reflect. We need to sit ourselves down and gather our thoughts, reflect together and decide on the path to follow. We need more listening of the Gospel together, to discover God’s call today, to awaken charisms, and cultivate a renewed style of following Jesus.

In our times we are living through major socio-cultural change. We cannot spread faith in this new phase of our world, without knowing it well and understanding it from within. What access to the Gospel can we offer, if we despise or ignore the thinking, feelings and language of our own times? We cannot respond to today’s challenges with yesterday’s strategies.

It is reckless to act without reflection. We’d be exposing ourselves to frustration, ridicule or even disaster. According to the parable, the «unfinished tower» brought mockery on its builder. Remember the thoughtful language used by Jesus, inviting his disciples to be «leaven» in the midst of the people, or a pinch of «salt» that give new flavour to people’s lives.

One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    Whatever may be the cost, our Lord Jesus is worth it !!

    People often get confused with this statement, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” How can our sweet Jesus, who is an embodiment of all love, ask us to hate any one? He remembered His Holy Mother even when He was hanging on the cross in excruciating pain. He ensured that His mother had someone to take care for Her before He breathed His last. Then what does He mean by these words?

    Our Lord Jesus is asking us to prioritise God’s work more than father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters. In the event of them stopping us from following our Lord Jesus, we should still follow our Lord Jesus, and love them too. For example, St. Francis of Assisi had to go against the will of his earthly father to follow His Heavenly Father. His earthly father wanted him to be an earthly soldier and His heavenly Father a God’s soldier (friar). He chose the profession allocated by His Heavenly Father only. He had to go against the will of his earthly father to comply with the will of His Heavenly Father.

    Can we look further on what our Lord intends to teach us using the next two parables? Our Lord Jesus Christ summarises His teachings of the two parables as, “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” Does it mean that we should not possess anything in this world?

    In the Holy Bible, we find that all the individuals whom our God appreciates are not poor. God says about David, “A man after my own heart”. God testifies about Job as “Is there anyone as good as Job?” Our Lord Jesus testifies about Nathaniel as, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” In fact, these people were wealthier than many other people of their time.

    So our Lord Jesus is not asking us to give up all that we possess. Then what are we to give up, when we need to give up all possessions? We need to give up all that is hindering us from following our Lord Jesus. But how much does it cost us to follow our Lord Jesus Christ? As soon as we say “I have decided to follow Jesus”, does everything become easy? The true scenario is we find lots of hardships. The devil tries to keep us away from following God. We wonder sometimes the more we try to walk with God, the more hardships we encounter. That is the work of the devil to keep us away from following our Lord Jesus. For example, Satan knew that the Apostle Peter was going to take the public office of shepherding our Lord’s lambs. So before the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, he tried to bring down the faith of Apostle Peter. Our Lord Jesus says in Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail”.

    At the start of any good mission, Satan tries to put in more effort to keep us from doing something good. He does not want us to follow our Lord Jesus and reach Heaven. He knows that our Almighty Father has kept a place ready for us in Heaven. So he tries his best to keep us from reaching it. But let us march forward like our Lord Jesus with the cross. When we follow our Lord Jesus and misfortune occurs, let us recall the words of our Lord Jesus: “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat”. So this is all a setup from Satan. But our Lord Jesus Christ will give us victory. Our Almighty Father has the name, “The God who sees”. He sees all our tears and He remembers our wanderings. All our tears He has stored in a flask and all our wanderings He has recorded in His book. Why? So that He blesses with joy and laughter.

    One of the main ways Satan tries to work against us is by making our own family and friends oppose us in our sincere steps to follow our Lord Jesus. They are our well-wishers, but they will not be able to understand if we are taking new steps to walk with God closely. They may feel it is unwanted and will mock us. That’s ok. Our Lord Jesus insists that we follow Him in these scenarios also in today’s Gospel reading. Here we need to ignore their mocks and keep proceeding forward. When our Lord Jesus was carrying the cross, people pelted stones on Him, spat on Him, mocked Him. The soldiers had to keep people away from our Lord Jesus so that they were not able to harm Him and increase His pain. The same thing applies to us too. When we are carrying the cross of our Lord Jesus faithfully, the world is not going to clap hands and cheer us. They place only a crown of thorns on us to put us to shame. But our Lord Jesus Christ will replace the crown of thorns with the crown of glory.

    When we work for our Lord Jesus, our Lord has warned us that we may be persecuted because we are working for him. In John 16:16: “..They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.” In places where Christians are minorities, we hear about these kinds of persecutions. Non-Christians feel that by persecuting Christians, they serve their God.

    Our Catholic missionaries sacrifice family life and live only for Our Lord Jesus. Their life is a beautiful living testimony for our Lord Jesus. Can there be any other testimony more beautiful than this?

    A major cost we need to pay is fighting against our self-centredness. Fighting against our self-centred nature is more difficult than fighting against the world. Even if we decide to follow our Lord Jesus Christ at any cost, our self-centred nature will tend to hinder us. We see this exact happening in the life of the Apostle Peter. The Apostle Peter pledged that he would even die for our Lord Jesus Christ and would never leave Him. On the same day, he swore thrice that he did not know our Lord Jesus Christ, just because he may have had to suffer for Him. This happens to all of us. We do want to follow Our Lord Jesus Christ, but then when it becomes challenging we stumble and fall back. But our Lord Jesus Christ is our loving Father. He understands our human weakness. He is not surprised by our faults. He always embraces us. The Apostle Peter wept bitterly for his fault but then emerged victoriously to shepherd Our Lord’s lambs. Hence let us not continuously weep for our own faults but be ambitious in following Our Lord Jesus just like the Apostle Peter.

    Similar to the training we receive for any job, Our Lord Jesus also trains us to adhere to His teaching. We know that we grow in times of challenges. The challenge would have been placed by Our Lord Jesus in order to groom us. For example, the Apostle Paul says, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh…..”. So the thorn was given to St.Paul to keep him from being conceited. All of us will have some kind of thorns. God also would have given us the grace to bear it, just as He had promised Apostle Paul.

    Whatever may be the cost, let us take up our cross and follow Christ!!

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