A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 14:25 - 33 ©
The Gospel of the Day – 2016.09.04
Take Up Your Cross…
Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’
The Way of Service is Not an All or Nothing Gambit
There are places in the scriptures where the words that are attributed to Jesus by the authors of the text are out of keeping with the character the reader has come to know about him.
This is one of those places.
It is jarring to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us about the necessity of hate, of hating your father, your mother, your wife, your children, your sibling and even yourself. It is jarring because Jesus is the man who; more than any other prophet speaks to us of love.
Love God, the creator of the universe; Love God with all your strength, and all your heart and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself, this is the whole of the law. It is love and not hate that Jesus calls us to.
We are created in love, and called by the loving voice of God. We are called to be merciful, to be advocates, to be compassionate. As Saint Paul said; if we speak in tongues of angels, and are not loving, then our voices are clanging cymbals, dissonant and incoherent. And in consideration of these virtues: trust, hope, and love, the greatest of them is love, because it is the root of the other two.
It is out of keeping with the teaching of Jesus to dissuade us from a course of action simply because we will be publicly ridiculed if we fail. It is out of step with the wisdom of Jesus to compare the work of his disciples to that of kings with their armies, to make the work of the church one of conquest rather than conversion.
This passage represents the thoughts and the fears of the church in the second or third generation. Of the church in a time of persecution, and also in a time of building. They are the feelings of a community trying to establish itself, and looking to remove the weak and the ill prepared from their congregation.
This is the wisdom of human being, of men.
The advice is not bad advice. It is a call for total commitment. It says to the church, be ready to complete what you have started, and be ready to give everything you have, including your life for the work you believe in. But it is missing the final thought: if you fail you will still be loved by God.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Canonization of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Patron Saint of Doubters