23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
At this time of year all the various things that stopped at the end of June for the summer are beginning to happen again. Schools and colleges return after the summer holidays and all the clubs societies etc that closed for the summer months now reopen and everything gets back into the normal swing of things. There is much change as many people who were around and about with us before he summer are not here with in my own case a friend that I had known for over 42 years passed on to her heavenly home and the clergy in our local parish have been reassigned to other places. Change is all around as all those who remain are left are thinking about the future.
In our Gospel reading for this Sunday taken from Luke’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was speaking to the crowds. This time he is not addressing those he personally called to follow him, his disciples. Instead, he is speaking to those who might be thinking about following him. Earlier when someone had such a notion he said to Jesus, “I will be your follower wherever you go” (9:57). Jesus responded to this person with a stark reminder, “the foxes have lairs, the birds of the sky have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. A sobering reminder of what it will mean to follow the one who has “nowhere to lay his head.” The costs of discipleship might mean detachment from one’s previous world and way of living. Jesus is asking total loyalty to him. Anything within ourselves, or with those we love, which might create a split in loyalties, must be put aside in favor of Christ.
Jesus used examples from his time and place; a farmer’s lookout tower, a king and his army marching into battle. We would use different examples for life’s challenges – but we get his point. Have we considered what Christ’s invitation to follow him involves? Are we realistic about the personal costs investing our whole selves will require? Are we willing to use our strength and resources to fulfill the promises we have made to Christ? Even more to the point: have we heard his most direct challenge, “Whoever does not carry his/her own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” How costly is that! To be willing to carry a cross, an instrument of sacrifice and death; willing to accept pain and loss of our own lives to respond to Jesus’ invitation to discipleship.
Who among us hasn’t stumbled, or even failed miserably, in our calling as disciples? We have existed on the edge of our church community, rather than given time and resources to help build it up. Today Jesus places three demands before us. We must be willing to risk family ties, practice self-denial and have a readiness to give up possessions. Being a follower of Christ is not something we can take casually. It’s not easy to follow Christ it always has a price, we cannot forget Good Friday and the Cross of Calvary. But we also remember that we are not on our own despite whatever happens to us. When we fail, Christ is by our side ready to respond to our plea, “Lord have mercy.”Nor are we on our own as we attempt to make big sacrifices in Jesus’ name. Rather, Jesus has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit who is ever ready to guide us more and more into a fuller response to the invitation each of us has heard through our baptism, “Come follow me.” As we try to follow Jesus the way the truth and the life we also remember Syria and all the various places where people are at WAR for whatever reason. Today we pray in a particular way for peace and we unite ourselves with Pope Francis call for fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and in the world on Saturday 7th September.