It seems that we are always in Presidential campaign mode and different groups are preparing in different ways. As you will see in the parish emails, bulletins and announcements St Charles will be sponsoring a talk and discussion on how we as Catholics should prepare for the actual election this month. More will follow. My friends and I in the ministerial business are seeking ways to address the marital and family strife and conflict that “two party” households will face. Although I did not have to deal with a post presidential election divorce in 2016, I do know families which have not had a family gathering since then and have presided over two very strained funerals. What would Jesus feel about this? I think Envy.
We are as a nation indeed a culture are divided among ourselves and the choices we make in so many areas require that we disagree substantially with other people including some of our dearest friends and closest relations. This is not a peaceful experience. The very passion perhaps violence will show its seriousness and how totally a way of life defines a person’s being.
This is what Jesus expects and wants but too often gets complacency instead.
Three weeks ago (20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 18th, 2019)) we heard Jesus say:
I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing! (Luke 12:49)
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)
He went on to tell us that this will be experienced most forcefully in the family.
From now on a household of five will be divided
Three against two and two against three (Luke 12:52)
There generations in which people are not challenged to consciously choose for or against Jesus and the way of life he demands. For better or worse this is not one of them. Unless you are hiding in a closet somewhere everything you have been taught about your Catholic faith is under assault. Understandably this can be very disturbing yet more disturbing is that I think Jesus is quite pleased with this situation. This is the way it is supposed to be. As a professor of mine many years repeatedly said, “Some truths must make a bloody entrance”. Let me add that Jesus is truth incarnate and that realizing that will not be bloodless.
The external irritants of the age can be helpful in opening up our minds and hearts to ask the basic question of who or what do we worship? Today’s reading is essentially an exercise in how to answer this.
Last week Jesus is in the house of a leading Pharisee. He is still there. Our passage began with:
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them (Luke 14:25)
The houses of the rich were constructed so that a distinguished guest would be entertained in an area that would face the street. The important people of the community would be inside the house, but others were allowed to stand outside. It is like today when large TV screens are placed outside an auditorium when there is an overflow crowd.
There is a section between what we read last week and this week. It is the story of the man who gave a great dinner and the invited guests did not come. The full text may be found with a commentary in our weekly email and on our website. Jesus chose the excuses that the people gave very carefully: one bought a field, and another has just been married. These were the two reasons a man could opt out of fighting in a holy war. (Deut 20:5-7, 24:5) They both reflected the concern for continued productivity and make great sense in that time and place.
Yet Jesus says that He is more important than even the continued prosperity of Israel. This was meant to be not only shocking but offensive.
He now continues this but is addressing a wider audience: this is for everyone.
First, he tells us all that we must hate father and mother indeed everyone including ourselves if we are to follow him. It is customary to point out at this time that Semitic peoples used exaggeration for emphasis, and it could be translated as “love less” or “put into a lower place”. Yet there is a real insight here. If we put Jesus first and live accordingly then others will feel put aside and the reaction will be strong, and hate may not be a bad word for what results. Our response needs to be equally passionate. A complacent Disciple is an oxymoron.
Family is always important and in Jesus’ day essential for survival. Even today we see how people can construct their lives around family. Yet if this is the dead center then it is a dead end and we are worshipping the family, not Jesus. Jesus will have none of it. Only Jesus can be at the very center, the core of our lives.
It is essential to be Christians that we look at how we actually live. If you consider a 60 hour work week part time employment then is your job your God? If you arrange your life around it then the office is your church, your laptop your rosary and your paycheck communion. anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
This does not mean that any of us must live in sackcloth and ashes and I hope that you all attain the worldly success that can add to your happiness. But that happiness must be based on Jesus with everything else revolving around him. We need not despise the desire for the corner office as we should not hate our family, but we need to love them less for themselves and more for and in Jesus
The images of the person who could not finish a tower or win a war are stark reminders that if we find being a Christian easy than we are not carrying the cross and our attempts to follow Him will end in disaster and humiliation. Discipleship is not for the fainthearted and it is best not to try if we are only halfhearted.
But, why try at all?
In a few chapters hence Peter will tell Jesus: “We have given up our possessions and followed you.” (Luke 18 28)
Jesus, after frankly telling Peter that this is expected, tells him as well: (None of you) will not receive [back] an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.” (Luke 18:30)
Jesus will not wander into our lives and casually place himself at its center. Sometime in our lives, whether here and now or in the years to come or perhaps some years past, we must put him there. It will be neither easy nor painless because he wants everything we have but let us be assured that it will ultimately be joyous because he will give us more than we can possibly imagine.
From the cutting room floor.
The Gospels are the deepest well of Wisdom. St Luke in particular is virtually inexhaustible. Writing a truly comprehensive homily is usually impossible, so I leave you with 3 wonderful selections from St Luke that didn’t make it this week:
Themes could have been reinforced from a previous chapter:
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23)
The verses which immediately follow today’s are a great conclusion to this section:
Salt is good, but if salt itself loses its taste, with what can its flavor be restored?
35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” (Luke 14:34–35).
As always, there are echoes in Acts:
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;
45 they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. (Acts 2:44–45).