HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR C
THEME: COMMITMENT AND SACRIFICE HELP US TO GIVE UP ANYTHING TO GAIN ALL!
BY: Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 4 2022
(WISDOM 9:13-18B; PHILEMON 9-10,12-17, LUKE 14:25-33)
All through this journey up to Jesus’ own death at Jerusalem that he began in Chapter 9 of Luke, the cost of discipleship has been a recurrent theme and today he says, ‘Hate father and mother’ and ‘Give up all your possessions’. There is no doubt that when Jesus made these demands, he knew what lay ahead of him, and was only asking his disciples to follow his own course. We must count the cost before beginning to build the tower. Most of us have, of course, already started to build the tower. There is no turning back from the plough, only prayer for a courage and loyalty which exceed our own powers.
The Gospel readings these past Sundays form a thematic trilogy. Two Sundays ago, the Lord told us to strive to enter the narrow door. Being narrow, it involves bending down low. So, in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus taught us of the absolute necessity of the virtue of humility. But one thing more is needed. The narrow gate will not allow us to bring in any extra baggage. So, this Sunday, the Lord tells us: “Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions, cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). And to make sure we are admitted, we have to show the distinctive sign of membership, namely, the cross: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:27).
In essence, these three conditions are an invitation for us to authentic love and worship of God by rejecting the three common forms of idolatry. The first idolatry is love of creatures. Jesus reminds us to love God more than our family and any human being. The second idolatry is love of money and material things. The Lord demands renunciation of these things. And the third is love of self, giving in to the temptations of comfort, luxury and pleasure. Jesus invites us instead to take up our cross and follow the way of self-sacrificial love.
Being a Christian involves two basic movements: ‘come and go’. At all times, Jesus invites us: “Come, follow me!” and this is a call to discipleship from the Latin root ‘discipuli’ meaning student or pupil. And after following him, he will send us on a mission as apostles from Greek ‘Apostolos’ meaning ‘person sent’. In both movements, our reply should be “yes” so that God’s plan will be realized. God initiates the call, but we have the last word: “Yes!” to give a proper yes demands a total freedom from the things of this world because life is a long and arduous journey to our eternal home. Carrying humungous loads on the road will surely slow us down and distract us from our goal. It also requires that we bear our cross patiently.
Nowadays, many people reject the cross. They abhor sacrifice and sufferings, and would rather run after money, comfort, and luxury. But is it possible for us to let go of the things we hold so dear, things that we acquired through honest sweat and toil? It is never easy. That is why our cabinets are filled up with lots of personal things that we do not use anymore, and yet we are unwilling to let go due to “sentimental” reasons. Jesus does not want people to rally around him like fans around a celebrity. He wants to form a community of disciples who will imitate him in his endurance, suffering and renunciation.
My brothers and sisters, commitment and sacrifice help us to give up anything in order to gain all. It disposes us to be better disciples of Christ. It helps us to be better husbands, wives, parents, and children. It helps us to be better leaders and even servants. In the spirit of commitment and sacrifice, the wisdom of God becomes fully alive and active in us. It also helps us deepen our trust in God’s divine providence and protection.
God bless our homes!