Dear Parishioners and Friends,
In this issue of our weekly parish bulletin I would like to share with you the homily I gave at the 11:00 AM Mass last Sunday. The gospel for September 4th, Luke 14:25-33, can come across as unsettling, so here is my attempt to "break open the Word".
"Perhaps as I read the Gospel you felt a real resistance to what I was reading. What do you mean to "hate" my family? What do you mean to take up my cross and follow Jesus? What would cause me want to make such sacrifices to be a disciple of Jesus?
This sense of resistance, I believe, is a normal response to the message of the gospel. What might be at the root of this resistance – the culture in which we live?
We live in a very secular world. Personal freedom is a prized American value. There is a positive side to this in that as a human person I have rights that are not to be violated. No one can violate my human personhood.
There is another side to this coin where, in our multicultural world, human rights are not respected. In our country, we could create a list of "isms" that cause conflict, such as, racism, sexism, radicalism and disregard for those who are different from us. The list can go on.
Religious freedom is a major, worldwide issue today. This is more pronounced in the Middle East with Islamic radicalism where people of different faith traditions, especially Christians, are forbidden to practice their faith, are persecuted and a murdered for what they believe. This is happening in other parts of the world and our country as well.
The word, HATE, in today's gospel causes us to cringe. This word, as we hear it in American English, carries a particular if not violent overtone. So we rely on Scripture scholars to interpret the underlying connotation of this word.
"To hate" one's family and even one's life is not meant to be taken literally. Love of self and others is still central to being a disciple of Jesus. Rather, this is a proverbial way of saying that nothing should get in the way of discipleship's demand. Before we calculate what the "cost of discipleship", or the cross, might mean for each of us, we have to place Jesus at the center of our life.
We have been given the gift of faith to believe in the God who revealed himself as a personal Being – to Adam/Eve, later to Abraham, Moses and all the prophets. Human beings did not create GOD, he revealed himself to us as a personal being. God established a Covenant with his people and the people were invited to live in relationship with God. God's promise of a Savior was manifest in the Incarnate Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus revealed God to us through his life, death and resurrection. Jesus revealed to us the reason for each of our lives. We have the gift of faith in Jesus to believe that he desires to be in relationship with us in this life and into the next. No-thing should jeopardize this relationship. So we should "hate" anything that would separate us from God.
Each of us is invited to be in relationship with Jesus first and foremost. What a mysterious and gracious gift this is. This relationship grounds my being. This relationship frames my life. This relationship defines my identity.
God comes first. Then I give myself away in love as Jesus did. My character, integrity, virtue, moral compass and vision for life are first grounded in my relationship with Jesus.
We respond to this love from Jesus by finding a way to pray to keep our relationship with Jesus fresh and vibrant. Old saying, "Pray as you can, not as you can't." Your prayer is as unique as you are. God is there with no matter what.
Let me close with a few lines from the Prophet Isaiah 43 that reveal how God looks on us……and then these same words lived out by Jesus as he gave his life for us with unconditional love.
'Fear not I have redeemed you I have called you by name and you are mine If you pass through waters I will be with you If you pass through first you shall not be burned… Because you are precious in my eyes, and glorious And because I love you.'"
God bless you,
Fr. Dan Sullivan, S.J.