04 September 2010

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

The painting depicts Saint Bruno refusing the archbishopric of Reggio of Calabria. These are the brush strokes of the mid-sixteenth to early seventeenth century Italian painter, Vincenzo Carducci. It ties into this weekend's Gospel theme of renouncing all for Jesus.

First Reading, Wisdom 9:13-18b
In this Reading the roadway is being paved which will eventually lead to the revelation that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person in the Blessed Trinity. How much is known about God? What can we expect from Him? What are His plans for each of us? There are many questions concerning God. Throughout the course of salvation history some of those answers have already been divulged by God Whose perfect Wisdom willed to clothe Himself in flesh and unveil that He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; ‘and thus were the paths of those on earth made straight’. ‘The corruptible body burdens the soul’ and certainly the mind can be considered part of the body. This is the classic battle that occurs within each of us. Even the desire to know more about God than what His infallible Will has already revealed is a battle that is of the flesh -- not the soul. The flesh burdens itself with labour, ailments, curiosity or the need to know as well as other worries and anxieties while the soul is burdened because of its longing to rest forever in the Arms its Creator. In other words, for the soul, God is all that matters. As Christians, we hope to achieve at least a partial truce so that the body is more in harmony with the soul. At the resurrection, the body and soul will be in perfect harmony because a glorified body will be joined with the soul and the battle will forever cease.

Second Reading, Philemon 9b-10, 12-17
Saint Paul met and by the power of the Holy Spirit converted Onesimus to Christianity while imprisoned. Onesimus was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon, a Christian of Colossae. Paul convinced Onesimus to return to Philemon with this letter hoping to minimize or eliminate his probable punishment for desertion. According to the law of that time Onesimus could possibly face crucifixion. Paul appeals to Philemon's charity which Paul must have previously witnessed first hand. Paul does seem to hint, however, that as an apostle of Christ, he has the right to force a charitable attitude towards Onesimus but he doesn't wish to do that if it is not necessary; Paul would rather rely on the decency of Philemon. It would seem that Paul is suggesting that Philemon's temporary loss of Onesimus was the result of Divine Providence. Now the door has been opened to Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a brother instead of a slave. This Reading appeals to us as Christians to remind us that we're all brothers and sisters in the Lord, called to serve one another with a charitable heart.

Gospel, Luke 14:25-33
Harsh words from our Saviour would seem to be quite common in the ‘Journey Narrative’. Jesus is talking about hating those who are closest to us. There's really no way to tip-toe around this because the ancient languages translate to mean exactly that. This is definitely an eye opener and something that should indeed attract attention because true discipleship is serious business. First of all, Christians believe that Jesus is God and God is Love and Love is incapable of hating; nor would He ever command His followers to hate anyone else. Hate is a human emotion, though, and whenever it rears its ugly head, it should only be directed at sin, that is, hate the sin but love the sinner. When examining these shocking words from our Redeemer, and comparing it to the parable He uses in this Gospel, it becomes clearer what Jesus is talking about. Christ is looking for complete self-abandonment from His followers. Counting the cost is the moral of the parable. What is the cost of walking away from true discipleship? The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Christ is the Centre of all Christian life; and the bond with Him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social (cf. CCC 1618). If Christians are to follow the Model and His devotion to the Kingdom of God, detachment which grows out of complete self-surrender is vital. Christ is very clear about what His disciples’ disposition must be in order to properly follow Him. As disciples, we must ask ourselves if we fit Christ's qualifications for discipleship; and if we don't, are we willing to do what it takes to make the cut? The intention of the heart is very important. As sinful human beings, more than likely all of us will from time-to-time fail miserably at our efforts of complete self-abandonment and total devotion to our Lord. But when we fail, is it because we fearfully abandoned our heart's desire or is it because our hearts were never really in it? The former requires penance while the latter not only requires penance but a major re-evaluation of what's really important. It's impossible to be dealing with matters of God and not be dealing with Love. In a strange twist, hate as it is used in this Gospel can be adequately substituted with love. Love for parents, spouse, children, friends and each other demands a great deal of sacrifice and self-abandonment. True love always puts the needs of others before our own; and when it is done for others, it is done for Christ.