Homily for Sunday, 8 September 2013
23rd Sunday: Wis 9:13-18. Philem 9-10, 12-17. Lk 14:25-33.
The readings this Sunday warn us that following Christ brings challenges and needs preparation and effort, and it's calling us to do so as brothers and sisters of the family of God.
The Gospel proposes 'hatred of mundane family' etc, but let's be careful of our interpretation of that. Hatred of self could even be misunderstood as a call to suicide! I think it’s not a call to hate but simply to be free of our family and of our own selfishness if they try to take precedence over God. In the second reading Paul tells of how he had to suffer prison and yet from within that problem came some success in his mission (with Onesimus). It’s calling Churchmen to be free of whether or not they see success at first. We should all be fee of mundane success. If it comes then be thankfull but if it doesn't then don't get depressed! Jesus certainly loved Joseph and Mary but he did sometimes make things challenging for them! God wants us to put effort into loving our human families, but we shouldn't give them more importance than God himself! Only thereby can we really love our human family well. It's a call to be free of mundane ties that impede a healthy love of God and of all our other brothers and sisters. Following Jesus leads to a joy without end, but the road to get there brings challenges and we've got to put in a lot of effort. Eternal life isn't a simple gift given 'on a plate'. It's a challenge.
The first reading says that if we seek good counsel in life, then we should trust God more than mundane oppinions. The second reading has Paul introducing Onesimus as a faithful missionary that can be trusted.
We trust the call to follow Christ because He's not trying to brain-wash or seduce like the superficial propaganda in our world. The image of the king preparing troops for battle may seem opposed to Christ's law of love, but I think that it's just a way of telling us that in order to love well there is plenty of opposition to overcome. What we need to overcome is the selfishness and sin within our own selves! We call it 'the old man', as opposed to the 'new man' that Christ can engender in all of us.
It's true that one's own familly sometimes aren’t keen on one's answer to the call. That's understandable, in a way, because they're the ones who've known our past, and it's probably not easy for them to be optimistic about our future! Following Jesus may involve major changes in our plans in life but Jesus said it clearly to Nicodemas: 'No-one can see the Kingdom unless he is born from above' (John 3:3).
My family in Ireland supports my vocation now a lot, but at first they didn't! They didn't know this 'Verbum Dei' community which was foreign and new. The youth of Jesus was perfect, but look at this: 'Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place.' (Jn 4:44).
Our family deserve to be 'repaid' for all that they've given to us over the years, but I think that the best way to repay them is by being faithful to God's call (the vocation). Eventually, that will be their joy - and that joy lasts forever! Family and friends may well be against our vocations at first because they think we're abandoning them, but that's not new - and the Gospel makes a point of it: 'The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." 33 But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and (my) brothers?" 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 35 For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."' (Mk 3:31-35).
Are you aware of Christ calling you? Don't wait around for some strange supernatural apparition!
My parents were initially pretty upset with 'those missionaries' who helped me awake to my 'vocation'. It says this in Jeremiah 11: "With human ties, I called you". Of course, a very significant part of those human ties were my parents themselves over many years. If however, there's opposition to overcome, even from our own beloved families, that will be following the example of many fine saints. Thomas Aquinas became a Dominican friar in 1244 against the strong opposition of his family. Think also of Francis of Assisi. Pedro Bernadone disowned him as a son! Pedro was more concerned about his fabric business than about that strange conversion of Francis!
Of course, the call to be a 'missionary' isn't necessarily a call to be consecrated (fully ‘chaste’). To be so is very good, but many married Christians are very good missionaries.
Our physical birth was a tremendous gift of God given through our parents, but read this: 'You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God' (1 Peter 1:23). I love you Mum (in Dublin) and Dad (probably in Heaven), and I'm very grateful for the fact that you taught me to love the Trinity and Mary. They’re always teaching us!