23rd SUNDAY -C-
September 4, 2016
9: 13-18; Psalm 90; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14: 25-33
Jude Siciliano, OP
Lots of promises are being made during this election cycle. But
complaints have been leveled at candidates for not being specific.
How exactly are they going to make up for a cut in taxes? What’s
going to happen to the 11 million undocumented people living in this
country? How exactly do they intend to make the country safer?
People complain that we don’t hear how they are going to solve
some of the major issues affecting our country these days. One news
analysts suggest that the candidates have been given "talking
points" by their campaign managers. The candidates are practiced not
to answer a question directly, but to get to the "talking points."
They must stay with the program. Candidates can’t afford to turn
their audiences off. They can’t slip-up, especially in nationally
televised debates – which we will soon be hearing. How else are they
going to get votes and win over a large following?
Imagine a politician talking to a crowd of potential followers,
telling them what Jesus told the crowds following him on the road to
Jerusalem that day. A campaign manager would have told him, "Listen,
you’ve got a large and enthusiastic crowd. Don’t lose them, don’t
turn them off!" But Jesus didn’t have polished speechwriters, or
campaign managers. He just had the strength and drawing power of
himself and his message.
What politician would stand before an audience and tell them, "If
you’re going to vote for me, your voting to lose your homes and
families. You’ll be deciding to lose what you love best. So, come
on, make a choice. Are you going to follow me?" In sum, that’s what
Jesus is saying. "Choose me over family, if they are holding you
back. Be prepared to give our possessions, if they are holding you
back. And, oh yes, be prepared for a nasty death."
In Jesus’ time people didn’t consider themselves as individuals
the way we Americans do, we "rugged individuals." They got their
identity and social standing from belonging to family, clan, village
and religious group. It would be unimaginable to cut oneself off
from family. It would be like losing one’s life.
The cost of following Jesus might mean tension, even rupture in
one’s biological family. In fact, in the early church there were
examples of children being turned over to the Romans by their
families for being Christians. A choice for Jesus, certainly would
seem like hatred towards one’s family. "If anyone comes to me
without hating their father and mother, wife and children, brothers
and sisters, and even their own life, they cannot be my disciple."
Can you hear the family arguments? "How could you do this to us? How
could you embarrass us before our friends? Why would you want to
join that rabble, those Christians?
Jesus wants his hearers to ponder what he says. Be like a
builder, calculate the cost before you decide to build. Don’t start
what you can’t finish. Consider what Jesus is asking before you
throw your lot in with him. Remember, the journey we are following
him on is going to Jerusalem. It will cost. He is asking us to take
on whatever difficult burden we must in order to follow him, and to
leave behind what holds us back, or slows us down. The final line
lays it out quite starkly: "In the same way, anyone of you who does
not renounce all their possessions cannot be my disciple."
Well aren’t we followers of Jesus already? We have been baptized,
most of us as infants. We don’t have to make the hard decisions
Jesus is asking those potential followers to make, do we? I think
Jesus is trying to jolt us regulars too, to wake us up. How have we
fallen into routine and habit in our faith?
Despite the recent heat summer is coming to an end. We have
already begun to turn the lights on earlier. But if you’re like me
there are things I said I was going to do at the beginning of summer
that I never got around to. "This summer I’m going to...." There
were "must read" books that are still unread. I never did get around
to brushing up on my Spanish. Did you do that extra exercise you
said you were going to do? Did you eat less sweets, more fresh
vegetables and fruits? Did you clear out the closet and get rid of
the clothes you no longer wear? Well, never mind, no big deal.
There’s always next summer.
In contrast Jesus uses stark language today to make a point.
There is no putting off decisions we must make and changes we have
not yet gotten around to. It’s not about later, it’s about now. We
must carefully think out and weigh decisions: how are we to respond
to Jesus today? What is very clear from the gospel is that it costs
to serve completely and utterly this Christ we call Lord. My mother
would say, "No if’s and no buts."
One thing is for sure, as followers of Christ we can’t coast. We
certainly can’t say we live in a "Christian country" and just go
along with our government and society’s values. Jesus says we have
to consider to what nation and family we belong. We are members of
his family and citizens of the kingdom of God. At this meal we come
forward once again to claim our allegiance to Jesus and in the
Eucharist recommit ourselves to his way.
Jesus is asking new followers and long-time Christians for
careful consideration. We can’t be naïve in our commitment to him;
can’t run on cruise control. Our priorities must be grounded in him
and if they are, sacrifice will be asked of us. I was tempted to say
"may be asked of us." But there is no doubt what Jesus is
asking of his followers, that sacrifice will be asked of us.
Make that the present tense: is being asked of us.
Isn’t that why we gather here, because we need food and drink to
stay on the journey with Jesus to Jerusalem? There’s always a danger
of compromise, or giving up on the journey. From what Jesus says
today discipleship will require us to make difficult choices about:
a life partner; how we are to use our resources; our career choice;
responding to Jesus’s call to serve the poor, etc. Following Jesus
is not about what will be asked of us, but what is being
asked of us right now; living our commitment to Christ fully this
day. We need food for this journey. That is what Jesus gives us
today, here and now, present tense, nothing less than his whole
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
the work of our hands. Prosper the work of our hands.
This Labor Day is a good time to reflect on one of
the major themes of Catholic social teaching--the dignity of work
and the rights of workers. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops writes: "The economy must serve people, not the other way
around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of
continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work
is to be protected then the basic rights of workers must be
respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages,
to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and
to economic initiative." Let us examine the pieces of this statement
as presented in the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 1986 document, "Economic
Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the
The economy must serve people, not the other way
13. Every economic decision and institution
must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the
dignity of the human person. The pastoral letter begins with the
human person. We believe the person is sacred—the clearest
reflection of God among us. Human dignity comes from God, not from
nationality, race, sex, economic status, or any human
accomplishment. We judge any economic system by what it does for and
to people and by how it permits all to participate.
Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a
form of continuing participation in God’s creation.
15. It is through employment that most individuals
and families meet their material needs, exercise their talents, and
have an opportunity to contribute to the larger community. Such
participation has special significance in our tradition because we
believe that it is a means by which we join in carrying forward
God's creative activity.
If the dignity of work is to be protected then the
basic rights of workers must be respected.
17. In Catholic teaching, human rights include not
only civil and political rights but also economic rights. As Pope
John XXIII declared, "all people have a right to life, food,
clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, education, and employment."
This means that when people are without a chance to earn a living,
and must go hungry and homeless, they are being denied basic rights.
Society must ensure that these rights are protected. In this way we
will ensure that the minimum conditions of economic justice are met
for all our sisters and brothers.
Labor Day should challenge us to uphold these
Coordinator of Social
Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading
"If anyone comes to me without hating their father
wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even
their own life,
they cannot be my disciple."
Jesus uses stark language today to make a point.
There is no putting off decisions we must make and changes we have
not yet gotten around to. We must carefully think out and weigh: how
are to respond to Jesus today? What is very clear from the gospel is
that it costs to serve completely and utterly this Christ we call
So we ask ourselves:
- What decisions have we been putting that we
know Christ is asking us to make?
- What will be the costs for us if we make
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The use of the death penalty cannot really be
mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Cerron T. Hooks #0561692 (On death row since 2/9/00)
- Terry L. Robinson #0349019 (4/10/00)
- Mark L. Squires #0688223 (5/17/00)
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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St. Albert Priory
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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