23rd Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Gribowich homily

Fr. Gribowich this year is studying at the MBA program at U.C. Berkeley, and seconded to St. Joseph the Worker.


Good morning, everyone! It’s a great blessing to be back with all of you here. It’s been a month I’ve been away and I’ve literally been all around the world, but it’s nothing better than being back here in Berkeley at St Joe’s. So I always have to say the West is the best. It’s great to be back here on the West Coast, especially after just coming back from New York, where it was still pretty darn hot, so it is great to be back here with you all. In my journeys, because it was school-related and things business-related, I definitely kept the parish in my mind, in my thoughts and my prayers. I hope that all of you are doing well and look forward to maybe chatting with some of you after Mass today. Know that wherever I go, I bring your prayers with me. 

One of the great things about being away for some time is then coming back and reconnecting with people that we haven’t seen in awhile, and of course I have a sister who lives in San Francisco and so coming back here on Friday night  – yesterday – I decided to spend the day with her, and I didn’t really know what we were going to end up doing, because she had a very busy week. So we ended up in the morning going to a hospital which we typically do most Saturday mornings, and we play music for different patients – we’re both musicians – and so it’s something that we like to do for like an hour on Saturday morning, and that’s in San Francisco that we do that.

Then afterwards, I thought that we might be like doing something outside, but the weather was kind of overcast, so we ended up going back to my sister’s apartment, and we decide to watch a lot of TV. One of the shows that we ended up watching was this show called Brain Games on Netflix. I don’t know if you know what it’s all about, but it’s put together by National Geographic, and it talks about how complex the brain is and how it can deceive us into thinking in certain ways, and it just does this all in the course of in the context of different types of games that they try to play with other people. So they go around interviewing people, asking their opinions on certain things, are showing them certain types of objects, and having them analyze it and all these different things, and there was one episode that we saw because I think we watched about 4 episodes yesterday – I know that I’m not really proud I was watching that much TV –  but still in all, we had this one episode that dealt with left brain/right brain. 

I’m sure many of us have heard about the difference between left brain/right brain people: left brain people tend to be very analytical, try to be more scientific, more mathematical. They are more logical; they look at things and they look at – see what is reasonable about a situation. Where a right brain person would be more creative, more artistic, more in the moment, more open to whatever comes your way. So most people are thought to be either one or the other. But the show quickly puts out in a very humorous way that in reality – while we can maybe say that we favor one or the other – it’s impossible for our brain to function without either or. That you need to be creative and reasonable, and you need to be reasonable and creative at the same time: it all works together. It’s the way that God essentially made us to be: able to be in the moment, but also to be able to understand the moment within a certain context. This is what makes us unique, as you and me, something that animals, for example, do not possess. So the reality as much as you want to say, oh I’m really artsy creative, right or I’m just a really a math guy, we all use both parts of our brain. 

I bring this up in context of our Gospel here today, because what is the command that Jesus gives us today? The command that Jesus gives us is to hate, to hate mother, father, family, friends. To hate, right? Now that seems to be very different than what Jesus says to us in many other portions of  the Gospel where he tells us to love: to love as I have loved you, to love your neighbor as yourself. And I think if we were to just boil down the Christian message to one word, we would say it’s all about love. But it’s very clear today that Jesus gives us a command that we must hate, and we also must renounce material things, must renounce our possessions. 

Now it’s very easy to just kind of maybe solve this problem by just saying that, well, Jesus didn’t really mean to hate, that he was just being really dramatic. But I’d like to look at this in a little bit of a different way, because when we think about this, if Jesus gives us a command, the question that we all to ask ourselves, is it possible for Jesus himself to do what he’s asking us to do? 

So in this context, if Jesus tells us to hate, the question we could ask ourselves, “does Jesus hate?” And if Jesus hates, what does Jesus hate ? 

Well if we think about it, it’s just simply impossible for God, for Jesus, to hate. God is nothing but pure love. God is nothing but pure, selfless, unconditional love.  The fact that our very understanding of the Trinity is all about a focus on the other, and just giving, giving, giving: the Father giving everything to the Son – His whole being if you will, and the Son responding by giving everything to the Father. And it’s that exchange of love that is so complete and so full that it is actually a person: the Spirit. So in the very Godhead, if you will, there is nothing but love. There is nothing that the Father hates about the Son, and there’s nothing that the Son hates about the Father. There’s no holding back, since Jesus really asks us to do something that’s impossible for Him to do as God to do: to hate .

Now, sure, many of us may think, clearly Jesus must hate things like the Devil, sin, evil, pain, suffering. But if we unpack that, all of those things are completely contingent on something that is good. Evil, sin, pain are all things that depend on something that is good to exist in the first place: even the Devil himself – Lucifer – is created as an angel of Light.

So, to say that Jesus hates evil is actually in a certain way pretty much impossible, because Jesus will always affirm the good in every situation. Jesus is drawn to affirming that which is good. Jesus does not affirm evil: Jesus only loves what is good, and when something is lacking goodness, when something is an abstraction or something that is abnormal, or when something is a distortion of good, Jesus still will love that which is good about that thing, that person, that situation. 

So when Jesus tells us to hate, perhaps He’s telling us to do something that we are able to do, that Jesus is not able to do. Because of our fallen human nature, because of us living in the midst of sin and brokenness, our propensity, our ability to hate is pretty great. And when we think about it, we do exercise hate far more freely, than we exercise love. Even the people that we love the most in our lives –  our family, our friends – they can get on our nerves and we may be brought to a point of actually hating the fact that we have to contend with someone in our lives. You may hate the way that a person treats us. 

And so, our fallen human condition gives us the ability to hate. And it also gives us the ability to renounce. When Jesus says that we must renounce our possessions, we may think, well that’s a hard thing to do because we really like our things, our stuff, our material world, but yet we do know that we renounce things very easily. For example, it’s very easy to renounce the certain goods of the world that we don’t have, almost in a spirit of envy or jealousy. We renounce the fact that certain people have billions of dollars to do so many different things with. We may even renounce our own possessions as being a burden. We all know that things that we possess end of causing us headaches. I just recently had to dump $1,700 into a car. I could say that I pretty much hate doing that, so as much as I’m happy that I have a car, I hate the fact that I have to do things like that for it, right? And even our homes and other things that we have cause us a lot of stress, anxiety, and we may want to just renounce the fact that we even own these things, because they cause us so much stress. 

So when Jesus tells us to hate and Jesus tells us to renounce, it’s very clear that perhaps He’s not asking us to do something that He may be able to do, but it’s very clear that He’s asking something that is very easy for us to do. But yet why would Jesus take us down this path? why would he want us to go to place that brings up the very worst in our human condition. There’s only one reason: because only by going down to the worst place can we realize that we actually need Jesus to do anything, and most especially to do anything right and with great love. Left to our own devices, we may hate, and we may hate really well, but left to own devices, we can only love in a limited way. But yeah, when we ask Jesus to work through us, we love perfectly, because we no longer operate on our own devices.

That is exactly why the reason Jesus gives us this whole idea of the examples – these two examples – of saying, you know, if you’re going to build a tower, you’re going to have to figure out how much money you have, how much resources, otherwise if you don’t have all that stuff and place, you’re not going to finish the tower. You’re going to look like a fool. The other example, of like, you know, if you are a king, you have an army, you’re going to go to a battle, you better make sure you have enough men to fight that battle, otherwise you’re not going to win.

Jesus is really saying to us, we act so much with our own devices, and it can only get us so far. We may try really hard, but we won’t be able to build the tower. We may try really hard, but we’re not going to be able to defeat a larger army. The call here that Jesus gives us to hate and to renounce, of course, is not meant to be more mean, or to be more revengeful, or to  just simply give up on even trying to love, but the call to hate, in the call to renounce is actually a greater call that we can do nothing without Jesus working through us. It’s not even so much asking Jesus for His help. It’s not even thinking that Jesus is our friend, is our buddy who walks around with us. It’s when we come to a place, a realizing, that the only thing we do really well is hate and renounce other things, that we come to a place saying that we fully need to give up on trying to do anything and allow Jesus to now work through me. 

And of course that’s the essence of why we come to Mass. Because when we come to Mass, I’m sure that many of us have had a week that we thought about all the things that annoyed us and all the things that we hate and all the different things that we would just want to renounce and get out of our lives. And of course we bring all those things to our mind at the very beginning of Mass when we say, “I confess to almighty God”, and when we beg, “the Lord have mercy on us”. But once we bring that to the table, if you will, to the altar, Jesus accepts our gift. He actually accepts all of our hatred, all the ways that we have renounced things, and then He gives us what we need to live a life of joy. He gives His very self, and we are in communion – common Union –  with Jesus himself. And when were in that common union we then leave this church realizing that we are no longer working on our own devices. We are now living the true self, what we truly have been made for: to be an extension of Jesus’s presence in the world. 

So today, let us rejoice in the fact that our hatred, our ways to renounce, actually just lead us closer to realizing how severely limited we are and our capacity to love. But that frees us and lifts the burden on thinking that it’s up to us to love. We give permission to Jesus to work through us, so we can love the way He loves. 

Today, as we gaze upon each other, know that we gaze upon the presence of Christ in each other, and we are only able to do that because of the great Presence that we receive at the Eucharist. May God bless you.