Tuesday, 6 September 2016

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9 – 10.12-17; Luke 14:25-33
  • If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.
  • Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
  • None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.
The wisdom of discipleship is born out of total love. This love penetrates and motivates, we could almost say ‘owns’, the disciple. It is the foundation for all his following (discipleship), and guides the trajectory of his life – total love, total love of Christ the Lord, total, unconditional discipleship – the wisdom which leads to the Father.

Total love of God is, therefore, the prize from which everything else flows. If we have this we have everything else. But how? How do we gain the prize? How do begin to journey towards this love?

Naturally enough, the first requirement is that we desire it. Ask yourself right now ‘Do I wish to love God with all my heart, mind, strength, soul?’ If the answer is yes – take a step forward.

Next comes Sunday Mass; regular, faithful, committed adherence to the worship of God every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. This is a basic and non-negotiable bottom line for Catholics. It is, for a Catholic, the ‘slab’ on which the house is  built. If you can tick this box take another step forward.

Then there is Reconciliation, which goes hand in hand with Mass. If we become aware that we have fallen into grave sin we go to the priest in the sacrament of forgiveness. If we are free from grave sin we do well to go to Confession at Christmas and Easter and even more regularly. So if the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a part of your life – take another step.

Daily prayer, loving service of neighbour, evangelising the culture, practice of the virtues, struggling with faults – all these are further steps in the Christian life – further transforming steps on our way with Jesus to total love of God.

To begin the journey of total love we begin with the wisdom of discipleship which grows daily with every step we take until this wisdom becomes our friend, our habit of life, and our destiny.

If we wish to see this wisdom more clearly we can do no better, after the Scriptures, than to look at the writings and the lives of the saints, because the wisdom of the saints is the love of God in full bloom.

Look at the unshakeable peace of bishop Cyprian who was beheaded in 258AD. He had refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods and when the sentence was passed he responded simply, ‘Thanks be to God.’ We then read: Cyprian was brought to the plain of Sextus. There he removed his cloak and kneeling down he humbled himself in prayer to God. He disrobed and gave his dalmatic to the deacons. Clad only in his linen tunic he awaited his executioner ... The blessed Cyprian blindfolded his eyes with his own hands .... So died blessed Cyprian.

St Rose of Lima desired to go through the whole world proclaiming the wisdom she had learnt from Christ: If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace.

St John Chrysostom writes: The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus ... I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live ... I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.

The more you read of the saints the more you recognise the wisdom of discipleship, total love, at work.

St Robert Bellarmine ardently prayed: O Lord, good and forgiving and abounding in steadfast love, who would not serve you with all his heart, when he has begun at least to taste the sweetness of your fatherly rule?

Standing on his funeral pyre, hands tied to the stake, Saint Polycarp declared: Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself ... I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Benedict XIV put it very clearly when he asked: What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside, leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain?

His answer was full of the wisdom of discipleship: It is living faith that expresses itself through love. It is this that makes us put aside the goods of the present in the hope of future goods. It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.

Living faith, total love, wisdom; it doesn’t matter how we try to express that virtue which directs our discipleship, so contrary to the world. In the lives of the saints we see our own calling to grow in that wisdom which leads to the holiness of the children of God.

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