• Wisdom 9:13-18b • Philemon 9-10, 12-17 • Luke 14:25-33 • 23 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Scripture Readings: Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 09.08.2013
For me, the Missoula Symphony’s August concert in Caras Park is among the best of our many summer experiences. I already have marked my calendar for next year’s concert. Such events draw thousands of people, and connect us in a positive manner. In the gathering and connecting I see a metaphor of the message Jesus so passionately sought to announce. “The reign of God” — “God’s new reality” is emerging among us as our unconditional love for one another increases.
In writing this homily I was frustrated by the three hyperbolic and grossly exaggerated directives Luke attributes to Jesus. “Hate your family members and your own life.” * I don’t do that, and I do not know of a single Catholic who does! “Carry your cross.” * Some scholars claim Luke inserted these words into this text to encourage his peers in the face of rejection and discouragement. “Renounce all your possessions.” * I don’t do that! I don’t know of a single Catholic, including those in monasteries, who do! I struggled with this text.
Then it dawned on me. Irrational loyalty to these three directives has diverted me, and probably most of us, from the message Jesus so passionately announced – “the reign of God.”
The Latin — “sensus fidelium” means “the sense of the faithful.” In the theological tradition of our Catholic household, we trust the “sensus fidelium” will keep us faithful to the way of Jesus. Since we don’t “hate family members,” or “carry a cross,” or “renounce all of our possessions,” the “sensus fidelium” must intuitively know these directives point to something more important.
Luke introduces this text with the comment, “great crowds were traveling with Jesus.” He neither tells us how large “a great crowd” is nor who was in the crowd. I think he is subtly suggesting the words he attributes to Jesus are important for the entire world – great crowds!”
In the midst of these directives, there are two parables about building a tower and going to war. I wish President Obama, Congress and all of our fellow citizens would read these parables and ponder the wisdom they contain. “Before undertaking any serious endeavor, sit down and consider the cost.” That is exactly what President Bush and his advisors failed to do.
It seems those we elect to serve as our leaders refuse to learn from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. In spite of such enormous waste of our resources and the failure of our military exploits, we are again discussing the use of violence in Syria. Military power and intervention never cure violence. They escalate it.
Walking upright on two legs is an acquired skill unique to humans. A toddler’s effort to walk will be successful if she keeps her eyes focused on a single person or object. This gospel text calls us to keep our hearts and minds focused on a single person – Jesus of Nazareth.
He traveled the hills of Galilee proclaiming “the reign of God.” The way of Christ is a serious endeavor. “God’s new reality” is like a summer symphony concert in Caras Park. Christ invites us, gathers us, and urges us to rid ourselves of false attachments that hinder us from being fully human. His message is simple. Love one another without condition.
These hyperbolic and grossly exaggerated directives in Luke’s gospel are a clear reminder that the decision to follow the way of Christ is a serious endeavor. The Risen One is telling us, “look, if you want to follow me, keep your heart and mind focused on me. Learn from me what it means to be human. Imitate me. Love one another without condition.”
The Bishop of Rome recognizes the humanitarian mess in Syria. He has invited us to make this a day of prayer and fasting for Syria and all others caught in similar storms of violence. In doing so he is inviting us to maintain our focus. The nonviolent Christ is model and mentor of what we are to become, how we are to live and how we are to treat others.