NB. I could not preach my way out of a chalk circle tonight for some reason. . .
23rd Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Among the conveniences of modern life like no-fault divorce, no-receipt returns, money back guarantees, it may be hard for us to grasp fully what Jesus means when he says that we must hate our parents, our family, and renounce all of our possessions in order to follow him. This demand for all-in commitment, for there's-no-going-back dedication can sound unnecessarily harsh, uncompromising even. Why can't we try on being a disciple for a while and see how we like it? Just dip a toe in and see if the water's right for us? All this hating family and friends and giving up our stuff seems a bit over the top! Who else asks this kind of commitment from us? No one! With just about everyone we meet and everything we do, there's an Exit that allows us a clean, guilt-free get-away. We're allowed to divvy up our time as we see fit; parcel out our energy according our needs; juggle various activities and people as we like. Almost no one is going to dare demand of us 100% of our time and energy. We need the option of backing out, the option of saying, “Sorry. Not today. Got better things to do.” Unfortunately for us, our Lord dares to demand 100% of our time and energy b/c he gave himself for us on the Cross. We belong to him – time, energy, attention, heart and mind.
Being a disciple of the Lord is no cake-walk. In his own day, many who followed him ran off when his demands for allegiance got – shall we say – bizarre. That time he told the crowd that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. How many ran away that day? When he got arrested in the Garden, even his most devoted disciples denied him and fled. Even Peter the Rock dodged the guards with lies and swift feet. If the men and women who knew him best can't stay faithful when the feces hits the oscillator – what chance do we have? Well, the best chance we have of staying faithful is to be 100% faithful from the beginning, doing everything in our power to stay firmly rooted in the Gospel and given over wholly to the mission of Christ. We do this by having nothing else and no one else standing between us and Christ. Not family. Not friends. And certainly not our stuff. This doesn't mean that we have to actually feel hatred for mom and pop, or burn our things in a bonfire of the vanities. It does mean that we love Christ first and then love everyone and everything else in light of our love for Christ.
Easily said. Not so easily done, I know. But consider: that we are able to love at all is a gift from God, Who is Love Himself. When I say that I love my mom and dad, I am also saying that I love God b/c God is Love. He makes my familial love possible. Knowing this and living it are two very different things. I know that God is Love, and that I am capable of love only b/c God loved me first. But how do I live this truth? If I attach my God-given love to people and things w/o regard to what God wills for my life, w/o thinking about how loving these people and things affects my holiness, then I am attaching myself to temporary people and things. If we become what we love – as Scripture teaches – then I too become temporary, not destined for eternal life in Christ. However, if I attach my love to Christ first, then love my parents, friends, and things as Christ loves me, I can say that I am loving in a divine love – sacrificially, eternally with my heart and mind focused on holiness. When Jesus warns us about the dangers of building a tower w/o a solid foundation and taking on an enemy king w/o proper planning, he's warning us to put First Things first. He comes first. Or not at all. And that's how we manage to stay faithful when the things start to fall apart.
When we lose the people and things we love, we don't fall apart; that is, we don't if we have loved them all through Christ first. He endures when nothing and no one else can. We are still capable of love. And – in Christ – we are still loved. Our work toward holiness can continue, and our life in mission endures.
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