Sunday, September 8, 2013

Homily for Sunday, September 8

Image by John Kohan

Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily
 

So, do you think Jesus is just having a bad day here?
Telling me that unless I HATE my mother and father, my spouse,
my children,  my brothers and sisters
– unless I HATE even my own life –
I can’t be counted among his disciples, his followers…

It’s just about impossible to imagine that Jesus
who calls me to love my neighbor as myself, to turn the other cheek,
to give the shirt off my back and to go the extra mile;
Jesus who teaches me that there’s no greater love
than to lay down my life for my friend;
that this same Jesus would also counsel me
to HATE those closest to me
-- as a prerequisite for discipleship?

Perhaps in a curious way,
in speaking of hating others and even hating my own life,
he’s telling me just fully he expects me to love him.

If I substitute the word PREFER here for HATE,
I jut might get a better understanding of the Lord’s message.
Then it would read this way:
“If you come without preferring me to your father and mother,
to your spouse and children, to your brother and sister;
if you come without preferring me to even your own life,
then you can’t be my disciple.”

Does Jesus really want me to “hate” my family?    No.
In fact it’s often in LOVING my parents, my spouse, my children
my neighbor –and even in loving myself-
that I show and prove my love for Christ.

But what Jesus is looking for here is “first dibs” on my allegiance.
He’s asking me to prefer him to everyone else – and to everything else.
He’s asking if (should the choice arise) -
if I will prefer him to my family.
If I will prefer him to my own comfort…    and to my own possessions…
If I will prefer what he asks and requires of me -- to my own desires...
Will I prefer his will to mine?
He’s asking if:
in my heart of hearts, when push comes to shove,
when the rubber hits the road,
when it’s time for me to walk the talk,
will I then prefer him to all else.

He’s asking a lot.   He’s asking for everything.
And he knows that even my wanting to prefer him above all
will come only at a cost.
And he describes that cost as a CROSS.

The real cross in my life and yours isn’t so much
that messy situation at home or at work, or a particular illness or pain,
or a difficult hurt or disappointment or loss.
Everyone has those troubles.

But for those who would follow Jesus and call themselves Christians,
the cross comes in my life and yours when our circumstances ask
“In the midst of all your troubles, do you still prefer the Lord
to all others and to all other things?”

Still, of course, it’s in the day-to-day reality of our lives
that we find evidence of who and what we truly do PREFER .

• This past week I upgraded to an iPhone 5
and I have to confess a real uneasiness with the pleasure,
the comfort and sense of well-being I found in getting it.
Then I went online for some information about my new phone
and found this line in Apple’s advertising for iPhone 5: 
“Loving it is easy. That’s why so many people do.” 
Where do I find my peace, my happiness?  What do I prefer?

• Or, how about when we’re faced with making decisions
about entertainment for our children or for ourselves.
What do our choices tell us about whom and what we prefer?

• And what factors do we consider in making life plans?
marriage plans?family plans? job changes?
housing moves?  investment options?
What do all of these tell us about whom and what we prefer?

• And when we consider the question of Syria
and what our nation should and shouldn’t do
what do our conclusions tell us about whom and what we prefer?

In the gospel today, Jesus gives us the examples
of a builder erecting a tower and a king going into battle.
He’s inviting us to consider our preferences
and to be aware of their consequences
because he knows from his own experience of the Cross
what the cost of our preferences will be.

In some way, to some degree, just by our presence here today,
we’ve all made a statement about whom and what we prefer.
And that’s a very good thing – but it’s probably not enough.
We need to remember that Jesus asks a lot of us,
that indeed he asks for everything,
and not just on this day but on all seven days of the week.
None of us is perfect:  we all fail in whom and what we prefer
and we all need to pray every day:
“Lord, help me prefer you to all others and all things
at least a little bit more than I did yesterday.”

For now, we go to the Lord’s table to receive his life, given for us,
his Body and Blood, shared with us in the Eucharist.
In his heart of hearts, when push came to shove,
when the rubber hit the road,
when it was time for him to walk the talk,
he picked up his Cross and preferred no one, he preferred nothing,
not even his own life,  to loving you and me.



 

   
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