Homily for September 4

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

Audio for homily

I think we’re all familiar with some child
who can’t go anywhere, especially to bed,
without a particular favorite blanket or teddy bear.
Eventually a child outgrows the need for such a security blanket:
many of us probably don’t even remember if we had one.

I don’t have a blanky - at least not any more.
But just for full disclosure:  I do have a teddy bear!
As you can see, he’s sporting a Roman collar like my own.
However, whether or not I need his company to fall asleep at night
is something known only to him, to me and  -  God!

But while your blanky or teddy may be long gone,
isn’t true that as we grow older -- we latch on to other things.
And many of us cling to and depend on our adult “security blankets”
at least as tightly as our children clutch their own.

Of course, our grown-up pacifiers are more sophisticated
and socially acceptable.
We hold on to wealth, or position, or belongings, or collectibles
- or  some substance.
We hold on to these things not only
as if we couldn’t take a nap without them -
but as if we couldn’t live without them.

Or we might jealously cling to a relationship to lengths far beyond
the legitimate demands of fidelity in love and friendship.
We might become so dependent on a relationship
that life without it seems unimaginable, even impossible.

We hold on to many things…

Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong
with a child’s security blanket or teddy bear
and very often there’s nothing inherently wrong
with the people and things we cling to that make up our lives
and our relationship with them.

The problem only comes when a relationship or a thing
begins to rule our lives, to dictate our behavior,
when our reliance on some one or some thing
begins to exceed any healthy measure of dependence.

A teddy bear, then, may be the key to understanding Jesus
when he tells us in the gospel today
that we can’t become his disciples without hating
our parents, spouses, children,  brothers and sisters, and ourselves
and that we have to renounce  not a few, not most -
but all of our possessions!
Let’s be clear here.
He’s not asking us to hate any one:
that would be contrary to God’s law.
Nor is he asking us to give away everything we have:
for most people that would be irresponsible.

What Jesus IS asking - - is for us to examine our relationships
with the people and the things in our lives and to ask:
what can I live without?  whom can I live without?
Upon whom, upon what does my life truly depend.
Where is my real security?
In whom, in what, do I trust?
Whose love is most vital for my existence and my happiness?

For Jesus, there is only one answer to all of these questions
- and the answer is God.

When we place all our trust and find our security
in things and in one another
then we’re like the man building the tower in the gospel:
we won’t have the resources to survive the loss
of the people and things in our lives
which we rely on so desperately
and in which we have put all our hope.

Each of us was created by God and made for his love,
a love we discover through those who love us
and through the many gifts creation offers us.
But ultimately, it all comes down to my relationship with God
because no other relationship is near as important.

Teddy bears and blankies aside,
Jesus is asking us to take some inventory
of the relationships we have with people and things in our lives.
Not to end up hating anyone around us but to ask the hard question:
is God’s love the most important love in my life?
Nor is Jesus asking me to give away everything I own
but rather to examine how much I live for and depend on my “stuff”
and to ask myself the hard question:
do I love God more than, do I love and rely on, depend on God
more than on my material possessions?

Jesus calls every single one of us to be his disciple,
to acknowledge him as the one we follow,
the one for whom we would want to give up anything
rather than jeopardize our relationship with him.

That’s not an easy path to walk: it’s the path that leads to his Cross
where he asks each of us to carry our own crosses and follow him.

We pray every week in the shadow of his Cross,
the Cross on which he deemed us, you and me,    
more important than anything else in his life;
he deemed us more important than his own life.

He let go every other relationship he had and renounced everything
- except you and me and all of God’s children.

His sacrifice and the gift of his Body and Blood on the Cross
is the same gift he offers us in the Eucharist at the altar.

May the food and drink of this holy Table nourish us
and strengthen us to love God:
above all things and above all others.


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