Let’s admit it: the opening verse
of today’s gospel is, at best, going to confuse our congregation. A
family together in the pew might look out of the corner of their
eyes at one another as they hear Jesus say, "If anyone comes to me
without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers
and sisters and even their own life, they cannot be my disciple." Is
Jesus serious… "Hate" a family member for his sake?!
Those are harsh words. How could
Jesus tell us to hate a beloved family member? How does what he says
here match with his teachings about loving one another as we love
ourselves – neighbor and even our enemy?
One way to understand what he says
is to interpret it in light of his Semitic way of speaking. It
deliberately expresses extreme opposites to get a point across. So,
his hearers might not have been as jolted as we were when they heard
what Jesus said. What is Jesus trying to say by his extreme mode of
expression? He wants us to seriously consider the cost of being his
disciples and make any sacrifice necessary to follow him.
It helps to remind ourselves what
Jesus said elsewhere about family. When family members asked to see
him (8:21) he replied, "My mother and my brothers [sisters] are
those who hear the word of God and act on it." When a woman in the
crowd cried out, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the
breasts at which you nursed," Jesus responded, "Rather, blessed are
those who hear the word of God and observe it." Those responses
would have been shocking to his hearers. In their world a person
understood themselves only in relation to their family, village and
religious community. Unlike us, individual identity was not primary.
Rather, blood ties were primary and inviolable sources of one’s
identity.. So, how could he possibly include in his "family" those
who were his followers, but not related by blood?
Jesus’ point is quite clear. Those
who heard him and wanted to be his disciple had to first consider
the cost before they decided to follow him. Pain and sacrifice are
inevitably attached to committed discipleship. There is no such
thing as casual Christianity. Are we willing to pay the costs? Do we
have the resolve to keep the promise of discipleship even when it
requires serious and ongoing sacrifice? Those are some of the
questions raised by today’s gospel passage.
Throughout the gospel Jesus often
speaks of loving others, including one’s family. He wants us to be
of one mind and heart with them; but choosing to follow Jesus in all
parts of our life may expose us to hatred, ridicule, rejection and
physical harm – even from our own family. In the early church there
were examples of fathers turning over their children to torture and
death because they had become Christians.
Luke wrote for a church living in
hostile, pagan places where Christians faced persecution. He
presents Jesus’ admonition to a suffering church. Today most of us
do not live in hostile environments. Still, what kind of response do
we get when we join our bishops’ voices speaking against: the
horrible conditions on our border; abortion and the death penalty;
nuclear buildup; protection for the environment, etc. People may not
verbally oppose us, but even some in our closest circles may roll
their eyes when we mention any of the above.
Usually the parables have a
surprise twist. But the two parables in today’s reading are clear
and appeal to common sense. They make the same reasonable point. If
you are going to attempt to do something significant, like build a
tower, or march to battle, you must carefully consider the costs.
Why invest valuable resources in a foolish pursuit that has no
possibility of completion and success? Then again, why not invest
everything in what gives life – following Jesus and, when called
upon, carry the cross he did?
There are moments in the Gospels
when people get excited over Jesus and begin following him. But when
the way gets difficult, as Jesus predicted, their superficial
commitment comes to light. In terms of the parable, they started to
build, but could not finish. That is why Jesus called the
enthusiastic crowds following him to consider carefully the serious
commitment they would be making in following him. Could they really
follow him all the way, when it could mean giving up everything else
and even result in suffering for Christ?
As he has done before, Jesus calls
his disciples to "renounce all his/her possessions." Again, he is
asking for a total response from them. They must be willing to give
up the security and comfort of even their own families and to spend
themselves entirely as his disciples.
When you hear a challenge like
today’s and all that Jesus is asking of us, don’t you feel
inadequate to the task? We know we will fall short of what he asks;
we still seek personal interests over his; hunger for material
comfort and possessions and not totally willing to work for the sake
of what the gospel asks.
Bottom line: we begin our
Eucharist with a moment of penance and always receive an assurance
of forgiveness. And we need it. We need to be forgiven for building
up the reign of God halfheartedly. When we hear what the gospel asks
of us we are tempted to throw our hands up in frustration, "Who can
possibly do what he asks, I can’t!"
None of us can on our own, but
grace is the subject of the sentence. Grace spurs us to conversion.
Grace enables us to recommit ourselves. Grace also promises us not
to leave us on our own as we try to throw our whole selves into the
gospel project – the "tower" we are called to construct. Grace helps
us pay the complete cost of that construction project, which Jesus
started and we have been called to share in finishing.
Click here for a link to this
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
And thus were the paths of those on
earth made straight.
One of the paths on earth in
desperate need of straightening is the damage caused by both the
personal and corporate sin of racism. The USCCB has issued a letter
on this subject that every Catholic should read. Titled "Open Wide
Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love--A Pastoral Letter against
Racism," the letter calls us to focus on the systemic racism that
continues today and how we personally play a part in its
continuation. The Bishops write: "Too many good and faithful
Catholics remain unaware of the connection between institutional
racism and the continued erosion of the sanctity of life. We are not
finished with the work. The evil of racism festers in part because,
as a nation, there has been very limited formal acknowledgment of
the harm done to so many, no moment of atonement, no national
process of reconciliation and, all too often a neglect of our
history. Many of our institutions still harbor, and too many of our
laws still sanction practices that deny justice and equal access to
certain groups of people. God demands more from us. We cannot,
therefore, look upon the progress against racism in recent decades
and conclude that our current situation meets the standard of
justice. In fact, God demands what is right and just."
Seeking to shine a light on
racism, Campaign Nonviolence NC invites you to its opening events
during Campaign Nonviolence NC Week, Sept. 15-22.
"DISMANTLING TODAY’S JIM CROW"
GUEST SPEAKERS: Melissa
Florer-Bixler, Author/Pastor Raleigh Mennonite Church; Sage Chioma –
Poet /Counselor / International Civil Rights Museum staff member &
Love offerings accepted for
Campaign Nonviolence NC’s 2019 series
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, September 17,
7:00 - 9:15 p.m.
LOCATION: Highland Methodist
Church, 1901 Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC
PRAYER VIGIL FOR NONVIOLENCE & AN
END TO RACISM
FEATURING Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral Spiritual Choir, Community United Church of Christ Adult &
Youth Choirs, and tenor soloist, Corey Leak
DATE/TIME: Thursday September 19,
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
LOCATION: CUCC - Community United
Church of Christ, 814 Dixie Trail, Raleigh, NC
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral,
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:
Jesus said to the crowds,
"Anyone of you who does not renounce
all their possessions cannot be my
Pain and sacrifice are inevitably
attached to committed discipleship. There is no such thing as casual
Christianity. Are we willing to pay the costs? Do we have the
resolve to keep the promise of discipleship even when it requires
serious and ongoing sacrifice? Those are some of the questions
raised by today’s gospel passage.
So we ask ourselves:
- How am I compromising in my
response to Jesus today?
- What does following Jesus now
ask of me?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that
condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that
humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
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:
- Bryan C. Bell #0592464 (On
death row since 8/24/01)
- Clifford R. Miller #0742512
- Reche Smith #0379083
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail
Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the
Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing
On this page you can sign "The
National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the
interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:
is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday
worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like
"First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to
fr. John Boll, OP at
If you would like to support this
ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude
St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince
Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Make checks payable to:
Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online
1. We have compiled Four CDS
- Individual CDs for each
Liturgical Year, A, B or C
- One combined CD for
"Liturgical Years A, B and C."
If you are a preacher, lead a
Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical
team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process.
Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they
prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to
and clicking on the "First
Impressions" CD link on the left.
Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily
scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a
friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr.
John Boll, O.P. at
will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First
Impressions" and "Homilías
Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and
other material pertinent to preaching.
4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those
wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the
Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent
weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
Vince Hagan Drive
First Impressions Archive
Click on a link button below to view the reflection indicated.
(The newest items are always listed first.)