Reflections

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2019

Consequences In Opting For Jesus
1. Conscious Discipleship
2. Look Before You Leap

Introduction
1. Conscious Discipleship
At first sight it looks contradictory that on the one hand Jesus presents his message and even himself as an invitation, a free offer that we can either accept or reject; and on the other hand as a strict demand. Today’s gospel sheds light on this paradox: Yes, what he offers us is a present, and no one is forced to accept it. We remain free, but if we accept it, it will be demanding. Jesus and his kingdom are to be put above even our dearest relationships and desires. So, we have to think twice before we accept. But we must know that with him and by his strength we can answer his call, however difficult, and we will be happy. He gives us that invitation and strength in this Eucharist.

2. Look Before You Leap
People who want to get ahead in life keep looking forward to the future. They reflect, they consult, they plan, and they evaluate their methods, taking nothing for granted. This is, or ought to be, the attitude of Christians. They know that the Christian life is serious. They do not take their faith for granted. They ask themselves: What is God’s will and plan for me, today, in my state of life? Where am I going? Am I following Christ my Lord the way he wants me to? Do I identify with him? Do I make myself free from the things that keep me from following him? And do I follow him also when the cost is high?

First Reading: We Need the Holy Spirit of Wisdom
Our all too human search is incapable of discovering God’s will and plans, unless God gives us the insights of his own wisdom. We must pray for a spirit of wisdom.

1 Reading: Wisdom 9:13-18b
Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17
R. (1) In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night. R.

You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades. R.

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants! R.

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands! R.

Second Reading: In Christ, a Slave Becomes a Brother
In this short, sensitive letter, Paul asks his friend Philemon to reaccept his runaway slave as he would receive Paul himself. In Christ, this slave has become a brother.

2 Reading: Philemon 9-10, 12-17
I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave  but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

Alleluia: Psalm 119:135
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
and teach me your laws.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Have We Made Up Our Minds to Follow Christ?
Jesus went all the way to the cross. True wisdom and prudence are not afraid of taking the risk of following him resolutely.

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Commentary
Life is made up of options. From the moment we rise, we decide what we are going to wear, what we are going to eat… and these are the smaller options, but then there are the great options of life. What is our vocation? With whom should I share my life? What work or activity should I choose? Where should I live? And so many others… Evidently, each option is accompanied by something we give up. The greater the option, the greater the sacrifice. If I wear something, I cannot wear something else at the same time; if I marry someone, I cannot marry another; if I choose to be a religious, I cannot think about marriage and childbearing at the same time. In order to do something, I always have to say no to many other things; but when we choose, it is usually because what we select seems more attractive to us than what we leave behind. We make a decision and we feel happy and calm, because that is what we wanted.
The interesting thing about the option presented by Jesus today is that it seems one must give up everything important. It seems a rather absurd option: giving up every material goods and even placing the people we love on a secondary level to carry a cross? What could Jesus be trying to say? It seems it is a question of priorities: first God and then everything else; but, if in choosing Christ, we are carrying difficulties, pains, suffering, what sense does it make? What is the satisfaction derived from such an option? For Jesus, carrying the cross does not mean looking for it, but rather, accepting what life brings, not passively, but with faith and fighting with hope. It means victory in Christ.
We know of cases of people who have paid a high price for defending their principles; and we see the example of Christ for whom preaching love and the Good News means accepting death. Carrying the cross means accepting the consequences of following Christ with everything we are and have; and that sometimes means sacrificing for others; not getting wealth by less than ethical means; defending the rights of others even if we lose out; speaking the truth even if it is difficult and so many other things we know well. Carrying the cross is simply the consequence of accepting the life of Christ in ourselves; that is why, making a decision for Christ may be risky and we have to think about, and “calculate” it carefully. A Christian commitment is not to be taken lightly; but it is the best thing we can do with our life. Jesus gives us the best option: decide not to have anything in order to have everything in Him; decide to place the lives and service of others before our own comforts and security; and decide to accept all the consequences that might result therefrom. It is to opt for Christ; it is to decide for a life that does not end, a grace that cannot be bought, and the deepest and most lasting happiness that can be reached.

Blessing
As on other Sundays,
we have again been confronted today
with Jesus and his message.
These put our life under the criticism of the Good News.
You are my disciple? Very good.
But do you speak up for people trampled upon?
Do you give time and attention to people in need?
Can you accept hardships for the sake of others?
Such are the marks of the real disciple.
We have reflected on these marks
and we ask God to give us strength.
May almighty God bless you,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Go in peace and follow the Lord. R/ Thanks be to God.

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