Saturday, September 8, 2007

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 9, 2007

Wisdom 9:13-18b
Philemon 9b-10,12-17
Luke 14: 25-33

“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.”

What is all this hate talk here? Usually, when we talk about the good news of Jesus it is about how he revealed the love of the Father for the whole world. Is this the same man who told his followers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors? Isn’t this the same Jesus who told his disciples to love one another as he loved them? This seems bizarre.

Likewise, at the end of the teaching today Jesus says this. “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Well, we’re not sure about that one either. Wouldn’t the world grind down to a halt if we all gave up our possessions?

This seems disturbing.

The parabolic images that go along with this teaching are not so pleasant either. An unfinished building that becomes a joke. A defeated king. Unfortunately, the third image of this teaching is not included in the reading today but I will give it to you now.

Vs. 34-35.
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen.”

The third parabolic image is spoiled salt. Useless and worthy only of being thrown out.

What are we supposed to do with all this disturbing imagery?

Let me draw a parallel for you regarding this teaching. Maybe this will shed some light.

Whoever desires to marry must first renounce all former girlfriends or boyfriends. You can’t take them with you into the marriage. Not even one. Furthermore, whoever desires to marry must also renounce all possessions as being exclusively yours. All possessions become part of a common household for the sake of wife, or husband. In fact, when you have children, you really begin to understand detachment from things. Kids tend to break stuff. Don’t be too attached. Finally, whoever desires to marry but doesn’t make a firm commitment of love, respect, and fidelity in the marriage will experience its ruin. Decline of commitment to love, respect, and fidelity turns wedded bliss into a living hell. Like an unfinished building project. Like a defeated king. Like salt that loses its flavor. Useless and worthy only of being thrown out.

Make a little more sense now?

Jesus tells his disciples that it is the way with the kingdom he came to establish. For us to be partakers of the new covenant he asks us for a firm commitment. Don’t say yes, go part way, and then back out of it. Let your commitment be unshakeable.

Wouldn’t it be great if all marriages held together with an unshakeable commitment by both husband and wife? How good life would be if all were faithful.

Wouldn’t it be great if all Christians held to their faith and practiced it with an unshakeable commitment? How good the world would be if all were faithful to the call of Jesus?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and I followed Jesus to the extent that everything about us and everything that we are would be devoted to the love of God? Imagine the transformative effect on my life? On your life? And on the whole world?

I suppose that the trickiest part of this whole challenge from Jesus for each of us is this. It means that I have to trust him with everything that I have and everything that I am. I have to trust that he has my best interests at heart. That he has a good plan for me within his kingdom. I have to trust that it is worth it to offer everything up to follow him. My family. My possessions. My own life. Everything.

If I don’t do it. Then I really am not his disciple. Gotta give it all. No holding back anymore.

Let anyone with ears to hear – listen.

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