Gospel Reflection Sept 8 – Sr. Teresa
Sunday, September 8
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 14: 25 – 33
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple.”
If we are alert and listen to the opening line of the Gospel for today, we may wonder: “Who is this guy, and what has he done with the real Jesus who speaks words of love not hate?” As a parish we emphasize the importance of family love and closeness and yet we hear: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even their own life, they cannot be my disciple.” Are you serious? Who can do that?
This is one time when knowing a little biblical history comes in handy. We sometimes forget that Jesus is Jewish. He grew up in Nazareth and spoke Aramaic. One common way of speaking in Aramaic is the use of exaggeration. (It is like my Irish mother saying, “If I told you once, I have told you a million times- don’t let the screen door slam!!!” ) People hearing these words from Jesus would not be shocked because they understood the use of exaggeration.
The passage is from the Gospel of Luke which was written at a time when to publicly declare that you were a Christian demanded great sacrifice and commitment and it could mean death. It was a time when a person, desiring to be a follower of Jesus, faced great obstacles from family, friends, and the civil authorities. It was a hostile and dangerous time for Christians.
Jesus’ point is quite clear. Those who heard him and wanted to be his disciple had to first consider the cost and consequences before they decided to follow him. They had to be ready to build “a strong tower” to defend the faith. Pain and sacrifice are inevitably attached to committed discipleship. There is no such thing as casual Christianity. Are we willing to pay the cost? Do we have the resolve to keep the promise of discipleship even when it requires serious and ongoing sacrifice? Those are some of the questions raised by today’s gospel passage. When we sift through the reading, we find the core message. It is not easy to be a follower of Jesus. It is not easy to be a true disciple. It takes courage and commitment. So-so and lukewarm are not good enough. We must know who we are and whose we are – we must claim discipleship as center to our lives and everything else will follow.
I saw four movies within the last month and each revealed a great deal to me about today’s gospel. The Art of Racing in the Rain (race car driver and his family); Peanut Butter Falcon (young man with Down Syndrome who dreams of being a wrestler); Brian Banks (back story of a man who played for the Cincinnati Bengals) and Overcomer (story of a young girl who has a low image of herself but knows she can do one thing –RUN).
Each of these movies had characters who knew who they were; they believed in themselves or had a significant person in their lives who believed in them when they could not believe in themselves. Each character knew what drove them forward … they knew their purpose in life and their identity. In Overcomer, two characters – John the coach and Hannah Scott the runner, are very different but both learning what it means to be a child of God. Both characters learn to sort through self-identity and discover what it means to live the faith they profess. Three lines from Overcomer (spoken by another main character, Thomas) hold the key. “Your identity will be tied to whatever your heart is tied to.” “Something or someone will have first place in your heart.” “When you find the One who created you it will change your whole perspective.”
For me, that is what Jesus is saying and demanding of those who want to be his disciples. What is your heart tied to? What has first place in your heart? Who gives your life perspective? It is easy to say, “I am a Christian” but living that every day may be quite different. Jesus is saying that it must be more than lip- service. It must be how we identify ourselves. It must direct the choices we make. It must make a difference in how we live. It can’t be something we claim as we comfortably sit at Mass on Sunday but then forget about it everywhere else. It can’t be something we claim if it is convenient and nothing better pops us.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is warning the crowds and us to carefully consider our commitment to Jesus Christ.
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even their own life, they cannot be my disciple.”
Are you serious? Who can do that? No one can do that if they try to do it alone. We rely on the grace of God. We rely on the faith and support of the faith community of St. Brigid Parish. We rely on the importance of showing up to be fed with the gift of the Eucharist. We take the words seriously, “Be not afraid, I go before you always – come follow me.” “Your identity will be tied to whatever your heart is tied to.” “Something or someone will have first place in your heart.” What or who holds first place in your heart? – Teresa Tuite, OP
A few quotes from the movies mentioned. Use them for your own reflection.
“We too, must shatter the mirrors. We must look in to ourselves and root out the distortions until that thing which we know in our hearts is perfect and true, stands before us.”
— Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel
What mirrors do you have that need to be shattered?
“As you push forward, you will have naysayers in your life. They will tell you that you cannot or should not pursue a passion God has placed within you. Their intentions may be good. They may not want you to be hurt if your dreams fail. Or they may believe you cannot succeed because they never took the risk. You can push past the naysayer. You can work towards your dream.”
— Brian Banks
Are you a naysayer to someone? Who are the naysayers in your life?