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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Wisdom 9:13-18b
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

Is Jesus really telling us to hate people?

This doesn’t match with what Jesus says the two greatest commandments are, to love God and love our neighbor.  The fourth commandment tells us to honor our mother and father and now we hear Jesus saying to hate our mother and father.  It doesn’t make sense.

Jesus goes on to tell us that we must even hate our own life.  God is the one who has given us life.  Why should we hate the life that God has given us?  It’s confusing.

We think of love and hate as direct opposites.  To love a person is to care deeply for them while to hate them is to despise them, to wish ill upon them.  Is that what Jesus is telling us to do?

No.  While we might think of love and hate as opposite that is not what the original words of Jesus were saying.  The word Jesus used for hate does not mean to despise or maybe even to cause ill to a person.  It is a much gentler “love—less”.

What Jesus is telling us still means to love all but that we must put God above all else.  This is not easier.  Jesus knows this.  He wants us to understand what we are getting ourselves into.  If we truly desire to be his disciples we are going to have to make some tough decisions.

This is why Jesus talks about calculating the cost.  In deciding what to do, we need to take time to think about what it will require of us.

Jesus speaks of the comparison of building a tower.  In today’s terms, let’s say we want to build a new garage.  What is it going to take?  First, we need enough land to build it on.  We will need to prepare the site.  Can we do this ourselves or do we need to hire someone?  Then we need to pour a concrete floor, build walls and a roof.  We need garage doors.  We need lighting.  We probably want an automatic garage opener.  We need to paint it.  We need a driveway to get to the garage.  Wow!  This could be a lot of work.  It could cost a fair amount of money.  After looking at what it will take we can think about if we have enough to build a garage or not.

In the same way, we can ask ourselves what is required of us to Jesus’ disciples.  Are we willing to make sacrifices?

Here I think of the way our RCIA program works for anyone wishing to become part of our Catholic church.   It’s that time of year for our program to start.  We don’t start with the people becoming Catholic and then after that teach what it means to be Catholic.  No, for older teens and adults, we have them attend the classes and then make their decision to join our church or not.  We teach them about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple and then they can “calculate the cost” for themselves.

The decision for most of us to be baptized was made a long time ago, most often when we were babies.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to think any more about what it means to be Jesus’ disciples.  It is an ongoing decision for us.

Anytime we need to make a significant decision, we need to “calculate the cost.”  What impact do the possible choices have on my faith?  What impact do they have on our family, our own lives?  What does the choice we make say about who we are as a person?

We need to pray for God to guide us.  Wisdom reminds us, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”  It is not easy to know what God wants us to do.  When we do know what God wants us to do, it is not always easy to do it.

In a black and white world, we might like it all spelled out for us.  We would like it all spelled out for us in very exact times and we want God to make it easy for us.

God worked to spell it out for his people.  We think in terms of 10 commandments but for the Jews there were a total of 613 commandments.  Even with all those commandments, the Jews still struggled to do what God asked of them.

Jesus comes to break open the Word of God for us, to show us what it really means.  He knows it is not always easy.  He knows we fall short.  If we could always get it right, there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins.

Jesus comes to teach us the Father’s Will but we need help to apply it in our lives today.  That’s why that after Jesus’ Ascension God sends us the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit comes to give us knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.  The Holy Spirit gives us counsel to make good decisions.

Where does it all start?  What is God’s will for us?

I think we can start with one simple prayer that we have all memorized, a prayer that we will say together before we leave.  It is a prayer that is part of many devotions.  It is a prayer that we can say quickly and without even thinking about it.  It is a prayer that Jesus taught us.

It is the Lord’s Prayer.

We pray thy kingdom come.  What does that mean?  What does God want the world to be like?

We pray thy will be done.  What is God’s will?

We might say the Lord’s Prayer often.  How often do we think about the words?  How often do we calculate the cost of what it takes to truly pray thy will be done?

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