Readings & Homily Sunday 04 September 2022

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Sunday, 4 September 2022
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Readings on  p. 1239 and Antiphons on p. 1235 of the Daily Missal and on p. 960 of the Sunday Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.

You are just, O Lord, and your judgement is right; treat your servant in accord with your merciful love.

First Reading: Wisdom 9:13-18b

A reading from the Book of Wisdom.

Who can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail,
for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labour;
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
Who has learned thy counsel, unless thou hast given wisdom
and sent thy holy Spirit from on high?
And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and people were taught what pleases you.

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 & 17 (R. 1)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. O Lord, you have been our refuge,
          from generation to generation.

You turn man back to dust,
and say, “Return, O children of men.”
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday, come and gone,
or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away like a dream,
like grass which is fresh in the morning.
In the morning it sprouts and is fresh;
by evening it withers and fades.

Then teach us to number our days,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Turn back, O Lord! How long?
Show pity to your servants.

At dawn, fill us with your merciful love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us;
give success to the work of our hands.
O give success to the work of our hands.

R/. O Lord, you have been our refuge,
          from generation to generation.

Second Reading: Philemon 9b-10.12.17

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon.

Brothers and Sisters:

I, Paul, an ambassador
and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—
I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,
whose father I have become in my imprisonment.

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.
I would have been glad to keep him with me,
in order that he might serve me on your behalf
during my imprisonment for the Gospel;
but I preferred to do nothing without your consent
in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion
but of your own free will.

Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while,
that you might have him back forever,
no longer as a slave but more than a slave,
as a beloved brother,
especially to me but how much more to you,
both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So if you consider me your partner,
receive him as you would receive me.

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia, Alleluia.
Let your face shine forth on your servant, and teach me your decrees.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.

At that time:
Great multitudes accompanied Jesus;
and he turned and said to them,
“If anyone comes to me
and does not hate his own father and mother
and wife and children and brothers and sisters,
yes, and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me,
cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower,
does not first sit down and count the cost,
whether they have enough to complete it?
Otherwise, when they have laid a foundation
and is not able to finish,
all who see it begin to mock him, saying,
‘This person began to build,
and was not able to finish.’
Or what king, going to encounter another king in war,
will not sit down first and take counsel
whether he is able with ten thousand
to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
And if not, while the other is yet a great way off,
he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace.
So, therefore,
whoever of you does not renounce all that they have
cannot be my disciple.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Communion Antiphon.

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God; my soul is thirsting for God, the living God.

HOMILE

  • “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
  • “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
  • “Whoever of you does not renounce all that they have
    cannot be my disciple.”

Today’s gospel is one of those when I want to say to Jesus, “I wish you hadn’t said that!”

  • How on earth are we supposed to hate our “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even their own life.”

The gospel is filled with stories of Jesus’ love and compassion for sinners, but today he is telling us to hate our closest family members!

  • It doesn’t make sense!
  • We talk a lot about “family values” in our country, yet here Jesus asks that we turn our backs on those we love and follow him.
  • Previously in Luke 12:51-53, Jesus told us he had come not to bring peace, but division and that a household would be divided because of him.
  • We know that did happen, especially in the first generations of the church.

Jesus is making his point through very, very strong images.

  • He is not proposing a comfortable faith.
  • He is asking more of us than just paying lip service to our faith
    • Like someone who would tick Roman Catholic on a census form, and then the only time he prays is when he is caught in a road block after spending the evening drinking in a pub.
  • Or someone who makes the Sign of the Cross as they run out on the rugby field, but never thinks of God again.

Though today’s language sounds harsh, this is not the first time Jesus has challenged people to sacrifice if they want to follow him.

  • Last Sunday we heard Jesus tell his Pharisee host not to invite family to a banquet, but the poor, lame and blind (14:1).

In Jesus’ world a person received their identity by membership in an extended family.

  • To be cast out, or reject one’s family, meant to be a non-person in the world.
  • The family also provided safety in situations of personal and tribal conflict.
  • So, if one left their family for Jesus what did they have for identity, companionship and protection?
  • Jesus’s followers would have him and his ways.
    • They become part of a new family that is not bound by blood, but by faith in Christ.
  • Jesus is quite clear what this means.
    • It means, taking up our cross – Jesus’ cross – and following him.

Jesus is not offering us a religion of prosperity and success, despite the message of some contemporary preachers.

  • There are some preachers who say: ‘Give me R1000 and God will bless you with a new car. Give me R10 000 and God will miraculously bless you with a new job.
  • Jesus makes it very clear that God does not operate like that.
  • We want security and assurance for our decision to follow him and Jesus asks us to put all that aside and lose our lives for his sake.
  • He is very explicit and leaves no doubt that to follow him will cost us.
  • Our faith is not an abstraction; it has very concrete consequences for us.

We are all searching for meaning in our life.

  • There is a heart hunger within in us all to fully understand our purpose in life – our reason for existence.
  • Often we don’t bother to reflect on who we are as a person. Often we are so caught up in the stress of making a living that we don’t reflect enough.
  • But that desire is still there.
  • Sometimes we use excessive alcohol and drugs and gathering lots of things and possessions and status so that I don’t have to think about the meaning of my life.

When we take on being a disciple of Jesus, and live it in our life, we discover the peace of God.

  • This peace is not an absence of war or conflict.
  • It is a sense of enlightenment that we are one with God and the world.
  • It is the sense of discovering my purpose and reason for existence.

Paul’s letter to Philemon makes a rare Sunday appearance as our second reading today.

  • It is only one chapter long (25 verses) and I daresay most of us have rarely, if ever, read it.
  • It is a most human and warm letter, which helps counter the sometimes harsh reputation Paul has.

In today’s reading we sense the love and pastoral care  Paul has for both Philemon and Onesimus.

  • It is not the first time Paul has revealed this human side.
  • For example, he shows affection to the Philippians
    • “I thank my God whenever I think of you and every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy….” (1:3).
  • He also names over 30 friends in his letter to the Romans.
  • The letter to Philemon exhibits a loving and thoughtful Paul who is urging two feuding church members to be reconciled.
  • Even more, he exhorts the two to be models to others of the new life they have in Christ.

Philemon was a prosperous Christian whose house was used as a church for local Christians.

  • Paul writes to him on behalf of his slave Onesimus.
  • What did Onesimus do?
  • Was he a runaway slave?
  • Had he stolen from Philemon?
  • We don’t know, but he had met the imprisoned Paul and became a Christian through Paul’s instruction.
  • Philemon was also converted by Paul’s ministry.
  • How touching and very human are the opening lines of the reading.
  • Paul describes himself as
    • “an old man who is now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus.”
  • He speaks very personally of his current condition and also of his affection and dependence on Onesimus in his imprisonment.

Still, Paul does what Paul always does in his ministry:

  • he appeals for reconciliation and for Philemon to receive Onesimus back,
    • “…more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me but more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.”
  • Paul asks a person of wealth and standing to relieve the burden of one who is weaker and dependent.
  • There are conflicts within families, among groups and between individuals in our church.
  • Like Paul, we want to work towards reconciliation and peace.

Paul does not address the institution of slavery.

  • Perhaps that is because he, like other Christians of his time, believed in Jesus’ imminent return.
  • Possibly, he just accepted slavery as the status quo, and did not think to challenge it.
  • As the church realised that the second coming of Jesus was millions of years in the future, later generations, up to the present, will condemn and fight to end slavery and racism.

From today’s Gospel:

“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.”

Reflection:

Jesus uses harsh and horrible language today to get our attention and 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 Lord.

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 these decisions?
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