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Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Homily - The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

First Reading – Wisdom 9:13-18 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 89(90):3-6, 12-14, 17 ©
Second Reading – Philemon 9-10, 12-17 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 15:15
Alternative Acclamation – Palms 118:135
The Gospel According to Luke 14:25 - 33 ©


Listen to the sage.

The questions that are asked are rhetorical, who can know the intentions of God, or fathom the heavenly will?

The answer is not “no-one.”

God has endowed us with the gift of wisdom, the spirit of God dwells within us, and where God is present God is present fully.

Be mindful of this.

We must admit our limitations and speak to the fact that our ability to discern God’s intentions for creation is occluded by our material condition.

What we can say is this:

God has made us and the entire creation free from divine coercion.

God does not intervene in our lives and God has no specific intentions for us regarding any particular outcome for any particular event. God only desires that we love one another, God desires that we demonstrate our love for God through the caring we share with each other, that we walk humbly, exhibit mercy and seek justice all the days of our lives.

God intends bless everyone.


God is with us, yes, God has created in us, as a constitutive element of our being; a desire and a longing for God. This pull on us, it draws us to God, but God does not interject God’s self in our lives, does not interfere with our choices, God does not intervene in the consequences of those choices, God does not take sides either for us or against us.

When God is our refuge it is because we have made God so.

God is indeed the eternal, creator of all that is, we are little more than a speck of dust in the face of the infinite, but God knows us, and God loves us, even in our relative insignificance.

Be mindful!

We are, each of us individually, and taken as a whole; infinitely less than the infinite God.

God is never angry with us. We do not suffer because God desires to see us suffer, we do not sorrow because it please God to see us sorrowful. God’s justice is not distributed in that way.

God created us with the capacity for sorrow and suffering because they teach us something about the value of joy, and peace.

When we suffer or are sorrowful we cause suffering in others and sorrow in them. When we rejoice and are glad God is there with us; feeling what we feel, knowing what we know, understanding our experience just as we understand it ourselves.

Consider the words of the apostle:

Saint Paul teaches us two things with these words from his letters.

He demonstrates his personal commitment to the mission he accepted, to share the good news about the teachings of Jesus and the way of life Jesus commended to us, a commitment that led the apostle into captivity, and to his death.

The apostle desires that all people understand the transitory nature of the material world and his absolute faith in the promises of the divine that lead us to eternity.

The apostle also wants us to understand that any person can change their station, can elevate themselves from the circumstances of their birth, can go from being a salve to a leader in the church if they persevere in the way.

There are no obstacles that cannot be overcome, no threshold that cannot be crossed in the service of God.

Follow God’s command!

The greatest commandment is love, love is the whole of the law.

To love one another, to give of one’s self to another, there is no greater gift.

The love that we are called to is not the love we call desire, though to desire and be desired is an experience of great joy.

We are called to move past the love we have for family and friends, because to love in that way is only a short extension of the love we have for ourselves. We see ourselves in the faces of our mothers and fathers, we see our ambitions as tied to the ambitions of our friends. We are called to love in a greater capacity than that.

We are called to love to the point of selflessness, to love even those who are against us, to love our enemies, to forgive those who have hurt us and done us harm, to feed the stranger and protect them…to do so out of love.

Allow yourself to be moved by the living judgment of the living God; as the psalmist says. God’s rulings are filled with wonder and awe.

God; creator of the universe, God of light and warmth, our God is the God who loves, who teaches love.

Love God in return and demonstrate your love through the care you have for your sisters and brothers, your neighbor, and the stranger in your midst.

This is the great commandment, it is what the church has commissioned you to do.

Be mindful!

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.

Today’s reading from Luke 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, 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 to be good and do good in the world.

We are called to be merciful, to be advocates, to be compassionate.

As Saint Paul said; if we speak in the 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 the machinations of kings and their generals with their armies. It is out of keeping with the teachings of Jesus to make the work of the church a march of conquest rather than a way of conversion.

This passage represents the thoughts and the fears of the church in the second or third generation. It represents the church in a time of persecution, but also a time of building. They are the feelings of a community trying to establish itself, while looking to remove the weak and the ill prepared from their congregation.

This is the wisdom of human being, not the wisdom of the divine, just as the sage had noted. These are the hopes and fears of men, of men occluded by their material condition.

Be mindful.

When we strip it down to its essence the advice is not bad. 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 (and you will fail) you will still be loved by God.

First Reading – Wisdom 9:13-18 ©

Who can divine the will of God?

What man indeed can know the intentions of God?

Who can divine the will of the Lord?

The reasonings of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable; for a perishable body presses down the soul, and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind.

It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth, laborious to know what lies within our reach; who, then, can discover what is in the heavens?

As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above?

Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened and men been taught what pleases you, and saved, by Wisdom.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 89(90):3-6, 12-14, 17 ©

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

You turn men back to dust
  and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’
To your eyes a thousand years
  are like yesterday, come and gone,
  no more than a watch in the night.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

You sweep men away like a dream,
  like the grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers:
  by evening it withers and fades.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

Make us know the shortness of our life
  that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
  Show pity to your servants.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

In the morning, fill us with your love;
  we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
  give success to the work of our hands.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

Second Reading – Philemon 9-10, 12-17 ©

He is a Slave No Longer, but a Dear Brother in the Lord

This is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me.

Gospel Acclamation – John 15:15

Alleluia, alleluia!

I call you friends, says the Lord,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.


Alternative Acclamation – Palms 118:135

Alleluia, alleluia!

Let your face shine on your servant;
and teach me your decrees.


The Gospel According to Luke 14:25 - 33 ©

Anyone Who Does Not Carry His Cross and Follow Me Cannot Be My Disciple

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.’

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

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