FR. GERALD MUSA HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: SUPREME LOVE
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 4 2022
Wisdom 9:13-18b; Philemon 9b-10,12-17; Luke 14:25-33
How will people describe us after we have left this world? The average description for many people is: “He loved his family and grandchildren and was dedicated to his work.” Only a few people can be described with the following words: “He loved his family and friends, but his love for God was second to none. He was indeed a man of prayer and had a special devotion to Jesus and an ardent love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. He promoted his faith with all his resources, time, and talent. He was indeed a man of peace full of the Holy Spirit, and who was willing to lay down his life for his faith, family, and friends.”
Relationships make life meaningful and so we relate with family and friends at different levels. There are relationships that we consider very precious and would do anything to sustain them. We love to be in the presence of people we love and to speak with them every morning, day and night. We have nicknames and special names we call our beloved family members and friends. We express love in different ways such as, “I love you so much and you mean the world to me;” You are everything to me and without you, I won’t be where I am today;” and “You are everything to me and everything is you.”
Our expressions of love and care are essential in keeping a relationship going. However, the major challenge we have is that we have little time to think about setting our relationship priorities right. Jesus speaks to his listeners about an urgent need to reorder their priorities in relationships. He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). His injunction reflects the first commandment, which places relationship with God above every other (Exodus 20:3). The Gospel echoes this commandment by admonishing us to love God with all our heart, soul and might (Luke 13:24).
Does the teaching on hating family members contradict the Gospel of love? Is Jesus encouraging hate? Jesus is neither teaching hatred nor promoting rancour and bitterness in a relationship, but He is pointing to a realistic cost and demand of discipleship. The word ‘hate’ here is equivalent to loving less. This means that our love for our family members and our lives should be less than the love we have for God. The foremost cost of discipleship is to place God over everything, everyone, and even the dearest things and people in our lives. An ultimate love of God is the first test of discipleship. Do we consider our relationship with God as the most important? Perhaps, to put God first and above every other relationship is easier said than done. We become so indifferent to him or we simply think that his presence would interrupt the flow of a relationship. Often, we get so carried away in our relationships and forget God who is the pillar of love. Truly, any relationship that is stronger than our relationship with God becomes a form of idolatry. So, in all honesty, which of our relationships do we consider most important, and to what extent do we connect that relationship with God?
Not putting God at the centre of our relationships has serious implications. According to Duane Vander Klok, “Not putting God first is like buttoning your coat incorrectly: if you get the first button wrong, all the others will be wrong. The good news is: that when you get the first button right, all the others will line up, too. As you put God first, everything else in your life will begin to line up as well.” The story of Onesimus in St. Paul’s letter to Philemon is instructive. The story is about a slave who rated money above God by stealing from his master Philemon. Later, when Paul introduced him to Jesus, he reordered his priority by putting God above money.
There is a cogent reason why God ranks first in every relationship. It is because God is the Source of Love. The Evangelist John says, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). There is conventional wisdom that helps disciples of Jesus to set their priorities right. This wisdom says, relationship with God first, relationship with family second, and relationship with work third. The love of the Supreme Being, God, is the supreme love.