If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 6 September 2019

23rd Sunday Year C 2019


23rd. Sunday  of Year (C)
(Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33)







Christianity – as commonly confessed by many so-called adherents – is, above all, a religion of love: for neighbour, and even enemies; and yet in our Gospel reading today we have our Blessed Lord directly addressing His past and present followers:

           

If any one 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.



That apparent contradiction is surely the sign and measure of our alienation from Him!  

Christians of all sorts search around anxiously these days for more people in Church, and, in that respect, regard themselves as being motivated by the Christian spirit of evangelization.  And yet, again, Our Blessed Lord was not, apparently, over-pleased by the fact that Great crowds were travelling with Him’, for we are told that:



He turned and addressed them: ‘Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.



Why such a difference between Jesus and modern versions of Christianity?


First of all, let us give careful attention to the actual life-situation which provoked those words of Jesus: we are told that ‘great crowds were travelling with Him’, and Jesus – responding compassionately to their demonstrative support but merely surface love and commitment -- told them that only those who would follow after Him, behind Him, walking, that is, in His footsteps, along His ways, and learning from Him, could possibly become disciples who might eventually learn to walk -- as the apostles -- with Him.

And there we have a partial answer to the question above, ‘Why such a difference ...?’  which I shall now try to develop.

Too many nominal Christians and pseudo-Catholics these days want and pretend to walk with Him before they have learned to walk behind Him, before they have sought to learn His ways and preferences.  They begin by emphasizing their heart’s passing, urgent, affections to the detriment of real and personal commitment; and they imagine they can love without adapting to the one they ‘love’, without learning how to change themselves so that their ‘commitment’ and ‘love’ might be acceptable.  This attitude of presumed personal worthiness is widespread in modern western society: whatever anyone does – provided it is within the law of the land – is fine, if they want to do it that way; whoever, whatever, people think they are or want to become is right for them, again so long as it is ‘politically correct’.  No other responses to such personal positions are acceptable in our modern society.   


Of course, such an attitude is not the Catholic and Christian ethos at all.  Nevertheless, some -- always too many -- prelates and leaders have been tempted and tainted by such wide-spread ideas, and thus misled, they have begun to conjure up a modern Jesus no longer necessarily based on the Gospel picture, a Jesus more adapted to present popular attitudes and aspirations, desires and hopes.  For that end they tend to evoke and promote-- contrary to Jesus’ Own express example in today’s Gospel reading and frequently elsewhere -- disciples characterised by excitement and emotion, sometimes clap-happy and, of course, infant-hugging, and they regard numbers as a sure sign and measure of success.  They delight most of all in prominently-active members of the Church society, rather than in humble disciples of Jesus who want above all to learn how to rightly obey and faithfully follow Him  wherever He -- by His Most Holy Spirit given to His Church and bestowed on them by His Church -- might lead them, along the way of self-sacrifice for personal love of Him.


Jesus Himself did all His saving work in Personal humility for total love of His Father and suffering mankind, and in today’s Gospel reading, looking at the ‘great crowds’ around Him, He was wanting such disciples, ultimately willing-and-able by His Spirit, to commit themselves with and in Him, to His heavenly Father in total love and trust.  Today, He is also disappointed as He was then, because so much ‘evangelisation’ is done from intentions rarely free from deep-rooted self-love and ‘faithlacking’ submission to worldly interests and expectations.

Looking back again at the Gospel account, why did our Lord use such an emotive and, dare I say it, ‘objectionable’ word as ‘hate’?

As you probably know, ‘hate’ in that context means ‘put in second place’; and its objectionable connotations are useful because Jesus wanted to strongly -- very strongly indeed – to emphasize the fact that God must always come first; parents, family, even self, always second, never before God. However, we should notice too that Jesus understood such ‘hatred’ to be a cross -- no secret joy or satisfaction -- for human nature; and part, perhaps indeed the essential part, of that cross He immediately went on to refer to when He added, ‘Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’


Jesus speaks most earnestly of the need for any one wishing to become a disciple of His, to seriously ‘count the cost’; and yet we, so light-heartedly at times, seek to encourage converts and claim back ‘lost ones’ by the fellowship we fellow-believers can offer them, both as individuals and also by the joy of our family and parochial gatherings: such as the  beautiful simplicity of our baptisms where the innocence of the child so easily takes precedence in the minds of parents and friends over the sublimity of the prayers being offered and the responsibilities being assumed on its behalf; likewise the splendour of our weddings where the present joy and beauty of the bride-to-be and the parents’ ardent hopes for the couple’s future happiness and fulfilment easily take pre-eminence over the lovers’ for-better-or-for-worse commitment to each other before Christ, and the Church’s prayers for the blessing, guidance, comfort  and strength of the Holy Spirit in all the joys and trials incumbent on married life.

Jesus once said (Matthew 23:15) to some Pharisees:


You cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves,



and that should be borne in mind by us today, lest our modern zeal makes new converts twice as superficial in their Catholicism, Christianity, and discipleship as too many of us have long been.

Our Blessed Lord summed up His thoughts in these few words:

Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be My disciple.

 

St. Bede gives us great help to rightly understand these words, for he distinguishes clearly between those called to ‘leave behind, relinquish’ all possessions, and those here called to ‘renounce’ such possessions: that is, those called to take great care that they do not allow themselves to be possessed by their possessions.


What, however, are we to understand with that word possessions?


It does not refer to merely material things, for there are many human spiritual realities we appreciate and treasure: for example, ‘my freedom’ was of great significance in the early years of the Church and, indeed, still is in many parts of the world where Mother Church -- even to this day -- suffers persecution; and there are, of course, the frequently encountered and unworthy memories of such treasured freedom lingering on the lips of those who like to invoke ‘my opinion’ to excuse their public words and actions.  ‘My reputation’, ‘my good name’, ‘my peace of mind and heart’, are also among such ‘possessions’ which a man can value much more highly than merely material things.

Jesus’ words:  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’; and  ‘Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple’ seem to refer to personal bonds of love on the one hand and to our instinctive rejection of suffering on the other, and here Jesus’ words were soon to be backed up by His own Personal example and experience whereby they have acquired a most touching intensity of significance and depth of meaning for us.  And as, in our Gospel reading, Jesus looked round to see the crowd excitedly travelling with Him, He would appear to have foreseen what lay ahead of Him and His words were penetrated through and through with that total love and commitment which would lead Him most lovingly to leave His mother a lonely widow in Israel, and take upon Himself the horrible pain and total ignominy of the Cross:


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 cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.



The awareness of His Passion and Death was always with Jesus, close to the surface, never to be ignored or disdained, because He needed to prepare Himself for Satan’s final assault and thus to  fulfil His Own longing to give the ultimate expression to His love for His Father and for us when the opportunity came.  Therefore, the crowds light-heartedly travelling along with Him this day stirred His pity and sorrow for their incomprehension of what was truly involved, as would James and John later on stir Him to a similar response:


‘Teacher, grant us to sit one at your right hand and one at your left in your glory.’  Jesus answered them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptised with?’   (Mark 10: 35-38)


Of course, our Gospel story is much more emotive than that episode with the somewhat ‘pushy’  mother of James and John, and her two still young and ambitious sons, for in our Gospel the great crowds seemed to instinctively recognize their shepherd; but were themselves, most sadly, no better than sheep in their following of Him, for they had so very little comprehension of Who He was, what He was doing, where He wanted to lead them, and what were the forces arraigned against Him, and indeed against them.  It was with regard to such a situation that we heard in the first reading:


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? 


Dear People of God, let us give most heartfelt thanks to God for our Lord and Saviour come down for us from heaven, and let us express our thanks by striving to serve Him with sincerest love, and with ever greater, ever deeper, understanding of the truth Jesus came to bring on earth:


The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God.  (John 16:27)



That is the only way modern excitement and presumption of worthiness can become acceptable love for Jesus, if it learns about Him from Mother Church and comes to believe that He is from God, come among men to share God’s truth and bring God’s salvation for all those humble enough in heart and mind to yield themselves to the guidance of His Most Holy Spirit with quiet and patient confidence for the coming of His Kingdom.