Vol.5 No.52 DoM Gospel Reflection
23rd Sunday Ordinary Time/4 September 2016
Luke 14: 25-33
HATE! I feel pretty certain this is the word that jumps off the page at most of us when we read this Gospel. I seem to recall that as a child I was taught (probably by a nun here at St. Ignatius) NEVER to use this word, for the emotion it implies is SO sinful/offensive and to this day, rarely if ever will you hear me use it. How then does Jesus tell us to “hate” our parents, etc.? After all, doesn’t the law of Christ tell us we must LOVE even our enemies? Of course it does. An older version of the New American Bible says “if anyone comes after me without turning his back on his mother and father…”, is to me a bit softer and easier to take, but certainly does NOT as strongly emphasize the cost of discipleship. The seemingly harsh word HATE lets us know that when it comes to God, we cannot be lukewarm or halfhearted. God is first over everything in the hierarchy of love and true disciples must be prepared to depart from anyone or anything family, friend, possession that prevents us from serving Him.
Luke lets us know we must love God before all, even our very selves, and we must be willing to take up the Cross in our lives. The first part of this Gospel passage reminds me a lot of the story of the Rich Young Man who went away sad because he had many possessions which Jesus told him he needed to be rid of to become a true follower. That reflection was not in the too distant past so today I want to reflect more on the second part of this reading about preparation and what we can do, as Daughters of Mary, to prepare to sacrifice in “taking up our
Crosses” to become true disciples, but understanding that we can never love God as much as He loves us! The Son of God laid down His life for us! How ready are we to truly sacrifice for Him?
The two parables Jesus tells are of the ruler on a campaign of war and the builder of the tower, and they describe what both men risk if they do not plan beforehand. Both would suffer shame and be considered foolish had they not prepared counted the costs and invested wisely. Proverbs 24 says, “By wisdom a house is built” and “by wise guidance you can wage a war” insuring success. Are we prepared? Are we ready to be thought foolish and suffer shame for the Lord?
In today’s secular, politically correct world, many would be disciples fear intimidation or persecution from those who tend toward leaving God out of EVERYTHING! All too often we “follow at a distance” especially when the heat rises. Jesus tells us to “take up the Cross,” not to take up our pillows. He did not tell us the road would be easy. Discipleship is hard work it goes against the flow of today’s culture. But as G.K. Chesterton said, “A dead thing can go with the
stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Discipleship should be all or nothing. We all know far too many “followers” who simply go through the motions giving mostly lip service to the faith. But, imagine this: a home where spouses love each other best because they love God FIRST, who make better and more loving parents because they love God FIRST. I believe this would result in loving families that would radiate outward in all directions like the ripples from a
stone tossed into a pool. How would this affect our communities, our nation, our world? We can only imagine…
So we must prepare. We MUST know God have our own individual relationship with him and this can only happen by spending quiet time with Him. A few years ago the suggestion was made that I spend 15 minutes a day in quiet with the Lord, preferably at the start of the day. (Matthew Kelly suggests something similar if you are familiar with his work). At the time thought, “WHAT?! 15 minutes?! I have to get dressed, I have to eat breakfast, I have to get to work!” and so on. Lots of excuses! But I started and now, a little more than 3 years later, I find that that little bit of time is not nearly enough! I have found that the more I grow in Him, the more I want. As Jesus said from the Cross, “I thirst”, so I thirst for more of Him. We also need to know our faith what we believe and WHY we believe it. How can we live it and share it and stand for it in the face of the culture if we do not know it? We are fortunate in this area to have many opportunities to learn, whether through programs at our churches, or from Catholic/Christian radio, or from sites on the web. All of you are already involved in learning to some degree just by being here a Daughter of Mary. AND I understand about preaching to the choir. But what if each of us took it just one step further 10 more minutes with God, being a part of or forming a group that digs a little deeper into knowing God, turning on Christian radio if you aren’t already, or inviting another to join you on the journey?
We can only imagine how those ripples might spread into the rest of society. I do not believe it is coincidental that this Gospel about true discipleship falls on the same day as the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. While short in stature, Mother Teresa was large in discipleship, having given her life to the poorest of the poor. At the 2003 beatification Mass, then Pope John Paul II called her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.” I am certain you all know her story but I want to share a couple of her words that to me exemplify her fearlessness in the
face of the culture. “Everything is God’s to give and to take away, so share what you’ve been
given, and that includes yourself.” “We need time for silence, to reflect and to pray.” “I always
begin my prayer in silence, for it is in silence of the heart that God speaks…” And finally, as someone who prays fairly regularly at Planned Parenthood, I particularly like: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
So, in closing, the Lord Himself said, and St. Pope John Paul II said quite often, “Be not afraid!” In our pursuit of discipleship Jesus promises to give us all the help we need. When asked by Peter, “Lord, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you…everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life”! (Mt 19:29) What a promise!