23rd Sunday - homily
Some time ago on the blog site, a person made the comment along the lines that many of us see the Gospel as too idealistic. It’s just too demanding…it’s too much. So, since we know we can’t live up the high expectations, we settle for mediocrity. Instead of living out the Commandments and Beatitudes praying regularly, and going to Confessions regularly, many people settle for just ‘being a nice person’, for example. It’s an interesting point that’s good for each of us to consider: Do I approach the Gospel in the same way?
I think that Jesus addresses this point in today’s Gospel. He makes it clear that he is calling us to greatness, not mediocrity. It is a big undertaking to be his disciple, and we need to know all that’s involved to follow him. He gives the example of a builder who is constructing a large tower. The builder gets halfway through the project and realizes that he doesn’t have enough resources to finish the job. He loses all credibility as a builder. Likewise, if we start on the huge project of following Christ- basically building a tower of holiness and love, get halfway and realize that we don’t have the resources – the strength and courage – to follow Jesus, we lose all credibility as disciples. In fact, Jesus says that if anyone who can’t renounce all of his possessions cannot be his disciple.
Now, about what we hear Jesus say in today’s Gospel that we are to “hate” our mother and father, sister and brother, all these people, and even our own life. Wait, did Jesus say we are to hate, like, everyone? Well, we understand that the word “hate” here means “love less”. It is brought more clearly out in Matthew’s Gospel that we are to love Christ more than anyone or anything. He is to be number one in our hearts and lives.
Why does God call us to greatness? It’s because he wants us to experience the fullness of life. He knows that if we settle for mediocrity, we settle for mediocre happiness and mediocre peace. More than that, though, God calls us to be great because He himself is great and he wants us to share in his greatness. God’s idea of greatness is different from the world’s; Jesus says that the greatest among you is the one who serves the rest. So, we look at Christ’s greatness. His whole life is about serving us. He became one of us, lived as a poor man who little or no possessions, took up his cross for us, and died a terrible death for us. It is because of his service – his greatness – that he is glorified by the Father. Christ wants us to share in his glory…to share in his greatness.
Christ doesn’t just call us to greatness and then leave us on our own to live it. He gives us all the help we need. He gives us his grace which is his life and strength, especially in the Eucharist. He says that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, and will bear much fruit”. Christ helps us to be great as his disciple.
Finally, one example that is hard but it helps to make the point. Good friends of mine are parents who are in their forties and have three beautiful kids. They are very good ad holy people. The husband and father, Mike, is very sick right now with a rare blood disease. It does not look good. I ask you to pray for Mike and his wife, Kelly. I was talking to Kelly the other night and she was looking at the tough road – the mountain of suffering - ahead of her. She said, “Fr Greg, how am I going to handle this? Either Mike will be sick for a long time or if he passes, I’ll have to raise the kids on my own”. The only thing I could say is, “Kelly, one day at a time”. It’s not my phrase, but there is a lot of wisdom to it.
I would use the same line to each one of us here today who is looking at this huge tower of holiness and love that Jesus is asking to build as his disciples: one day at a time. He is here to help us, and it is through his grace that we are his disciples who will share in his greatness.