Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Wisdom 9:13-18
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17
Reading II Letter of St. Paul to Philemon
Gospel Luke 14:25-33
This morning we celebrate the twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time and our readings are really about discipleship. So knowing you all got up early this morning and did your homework — I have a pop quiz for you. Are we ready? Are we ready? How many of you are disciples of Christ? If we listen to the Gospel very quickly, there are three things that the Gospel says we need to have in order to be disciples. Now I want you to listen very carefully to what I am saying because I would hate for you to make a mistake.
The first thing: You must hate your mom and dad. So, how many of you hate your mom and dad? You should hate your wife and children. You should hate yourself. I guess we fail that one.
Second, you have to take up your cross and follow Christ. How many of you take up your cross?
And the last one at the end of the Gospel asks: How many of you are willing to give away everything that you have to be a disciple?
Sometimes when we read the Gospel we scratch our heads and say, “There’s something wrong here.” When you think of God and you think of Jesus, what do you think about? You think about love, you don’t think about hate. When you think of Jesus’s life, did he ever hate anyone? Absolutely not. So obviously Luke is trying to make a point here, which means we don’t have to take it seriously. But what he is trying to say to us is: The one person who should be number one in our life is God, and then our families, and then ourselves. And if we make God first in our lives, believe it or not, we will do better with our families, and we will do better with ourselves.
So the question is: Are we putting God first in our life? And how would you know if you were, or were not. Well, number one: Prayer. If you pray to God every day, then you know that you are making him the center of your life. When you are going through the day and decisions have to be made, if you make God part of who you are then you are making him first in your life. If we do that, your spouse will see it, your children will see it, your co-workers will see it and they will see the experience of God in your life.
The third thing is: You have to like yourself. Liking yourself is a good thing. We need to like ourselves because God has created us all and he has given us special gifts. So part of loving ourselves is using the gifts and talents that God has given us to make this world a better place.
The second element of discipleship is to carry your cross. When I asked that question— most of you raised your hands. To carry your cross means that we have some things in our lives that challenge us. And if you have not had crosses, or you do not have crosses now, you will have crosses before you die.
We all have crosses. What are they? They may be all sorts of things. It may be addictions, it may be sex, it may be alcohol, it may be whatever. It may be a relationship between a husband and wife, parents and children, or working with co-workers. We all have crosses. Christ says to us, “I died on the cross for you. I’m not telling you that you are going to get out of the crosses that come along in your life, because that is part of life in this world.” It is how we deal with our crosses — that is what is important.
More often than not you do not have a choice as to crosses that happen. But you do have a choice as how you respond to those crosses. If you are sick, or find out you have cancer, those are very devastating things in our lives. How do you deal with that? We deal with it by making Christ part of who we are and saying, “God, help me though this.I know you are with me.” Or do we get depressed and say, “To heck with the world” and make life miserable for everyone around us.
We have a choice. We have a choice as to how we deal with that cross and that’s what makes us disciples. Again, if we make Christ first — it’s not a big deal. He will help us through those good times, and through those bad times.
Then at the end of the Gospel he says, “You have to get rid of everything that you have.” And we know that isn’t realistic either. But what Luke is telling us is that we should look at our lives and ask, “What are the gifts that God has given us? What are the gifts that God has given us, not just for me but for everyone else?” And if we use those talents and treasures for one another, then we are making a difference in our world. So he is not asking us to give everything away, but he is asking us to look at our gifts — and to give some of them.
None of us can live without money. We have to pay the rent, we have to have a house, and food and all those things. Most of us have an abundance of those things. So the question is: How do we deal with that? Do we keep it, or do we give it away to help one another.
We look at our second reading today and it is an example of what a disciple really is. Paul is writing from jail. He had a friend, Philemon, who is a wealthy man who became a Christian. He also had Onesimus, who was his slave. Onesimus ran away from Philemon. During the time of Paul, if you were a slave you were not treated very well, and you sure did not want to run away — because if you did you would probably be beaten and treated very badly when you got home. But Paul is writing a letter to Philemon saying, “Your slave has come to me and is with me and has been very helpful. And in the process he has become a Christian, just like you are a Christian. I am sending him back to you but I don’t want you to treat him as a slave. I want you to treat him as a brother. I want you to love him, I want you to care for him, I want you to take him back just like you would me.”
Through life we have many trials and tribulations and it is very difficult sometimes to do the right thing even though we know what the right thing is. So this morning what we are being asked is: Number one, we are all disciples of Christ. But are we living up to the discipleship Christ wants for us? Are we taking care of our families, and are we taking care of ourselves. And second, as we deal with our crosses and we look at those things in our life that are difficult — how are dealing with it? Are we making Christ the center of our life? Hopefully, yes. But the other component we sometimes fail to ask is: Are we making use of our faith community around us to help us in those difficult times?
When Christ went to Calvary, did he have help? Did people stop along the way to help him carry his cross? Were there people there, women and others, to help him deal as best he could with that cross? Absolutely. We are no different than that. We need to be a community of believers who look out after each other and our world.
This morning we have Leo Michael, who will be baptized. He is being given the greatest gift that any parents can give — he is given the gift of eternal life when he is baptized. Leo Michael is being baptized at this Mass, and why do we do that? Because he is being baptized into this faith community, this faith community that along with the parents, and godparents, are going to help you raise Leo in the faith. That is what fellowship is all about — looking at the gifts we have and making use of them for the gifts of one another.
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Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0056)