September 8/9, 2007
23rd Sunday OT Cycle
Philemon 9-10, 12-17 Lk. 14:25-33
From the Path of
Dispossession of Things and People to Possessing Jesus! (The Demands of
The New Jerome Biblical
Commentary on today's gospel from Luke reiterates Jesus' demands of those
who wish to be his disciples.
The hatred for father and mother, spouse, children, brothers and sisters,
relatives and friends and even oneself is a stark reminder of unpleasant
pictures or conditions that illustrate the situation of a true disciple,
but who, from discouragement or any other causes, withdraws from the profession
once made to God at birth and baptism.
The word 'hate' means total commitment that Jesus demands of us his followers.
This means we ought to weigh the costs as we follow Jesus. We must never
recoil before any sacrifice required of us to follow Jesus through to
the end, even if it means sacrificing all our possessions and our very
selves. In other words, we must be ready to renounce every possession,
becoming aware of and never letting our allegiance to Jesus deteriorate
to the point of becoming inactive.? [p. 707].
So what does Jesus really mean when he says in Luke 14:26 that we must
'hate father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, relatives
and friends and even our very selves'?
Jesus is asking us to get rid of all things, wealth and riches, achievements
and status and people that we have turned into possessions.
Some of us hold people as if they are our possessions. Let me give you
an example of people we have tuned into 'possessions.' Have you been observing
interactions between certain mothers and their children at the Cornwall
Mall? As kids try to drift away to play with other kids in the Mall, parents
ensure that their children do not. They insist the kids can't go there,
can't do that; can't do this! Some parents have even gone to the extent
of having a leash or harness around the waist of their children. They
seem so possessed of their children and afraid that those 'monsters' might
Talk about jealousy and possession! Talk of a jealous neighbour! Talk
of a jealous boy friend or girl friend! Talk of a jealous person or co-worker
who can cause your wrongful accusation that may send you to hell on earth,
loss of job, breakdown of your marriage or relationship or removal of
children! And talk of a jealous spouse! I am your wife and when you look
into the eyes of other women, I get uneasy. I am your husband and when
you become too jovial with other men, I feel uncomfortable. There are
spouses who are so fearful and possessed of each other. The wife doesn't
dare talk to any strange man. That gesture of openness or that man would
not be a welcoming apply in the home. Similarly, the husband must not
dare to talk to other women. Those other women are not welcoming juices
into the home, and should couples breach this 'trust', oh my, oh my, the
home would no longer be 'the happy camp' for either of the couple.
Although things, wealth and riches, achievements and status and people
nearest and dearest to us are significantly important in our life and
growth here on earth, they can, if care is not taken, become stumbling
blocks in finding authentic happiness in God.
Again, how dare Jesus to suggest that we dispossess, abandon or hate our
father and mother, spouse, children, brothers and sisters, relatives and
friends and even our very selves before we can become his disciples? What
was and is Jesus thinking about? What was and is wrong with his mind?
He loved God his heavenly Father! He loved Joseph his earthly father!
He loved Mary his Mother! How does he command us now to hate and to renounce
everything we have worked and sweated for, or everything we have acquired
in life just for his sake? Who does Jesus think he is?
The answer is simple! Jesus does not condemn allegiance to riches, possessions,
family, relatives or friends. Jesus suggests simply that by renouncing
all possessions and all that ties us down, we can make God -- not clothes,
not sports, not fame, not beauty -- but God, the ULTIMATE possession in
Who is God to you? What is God to you? Is he only a friend you go to when
you need something? What is your ultimate possession in life? Is it God,
the Creator? Are we willing to pay a price for Jesus, for God our Creator?
At what cost?
As followers of Jesus the reality is that there is a price or cost to
being a committed disciple. In other words, 'What is the price, and at
what cost are we willing to pay as disciples of Jesus'? Some of us, especially
people of our younger generation do not want to pay any price for Jesus.
They are not ready to bear any cost for their discipleship; neither are
they ready and willing to belong to a parish and contribute physically
and financially towards the upkeep of the present and future existence
of the parish. Yet when they require sacraments of First Reconciliation,
First Communion, Confirmation and Marriage, they demand answers NOW! And
let the resident Pastor challenge them for 'satisfaction' or some level
of commitment to the parish and they soon write letters to the Bishop
complaining about how 'Unchristlike' or unruly or a stumbling block the
priest is to them. Such people do not want to pay a price for being Jesus'
disciples; they only want to take glory from the Church or Parish. Quite
sad, isn't it? But why would Jesus insist upon this radical approach --
that we denounce ourselves before we can bond with God?
Here is the key. Jesus knows that the world then and now obliges us to
retain possessions. Take as example! Today's parents drum it into the
minds of young children to aim at achievements, money, success, fame,
big houses, fast cars, entertainment etc. etc.. The sad and obvious news
is that we have everything we need to be happy, and yet, we seem not to
be entirely happy and away from realities.
For Jesus, what actually makes us happy is breaking ourselves free or
letting-go of our ego and pride so that God -- the true reality may take
possession of us and make us completely whole and happy. What makes us
truly happy is not the prestige or the respect we command in society.
What makes us truly happy is when we let-go of ourselves; when we like
Jesus, place ourselves there at the service of others so that they too
may share in the joy and happiness that Jesus brings. Take a minute with
me now and contemplate on what makes you truly happy! [Pause]
Media tell us to brood over all that makes us happy; but indeed, all the
false programs we faithfully watch on TV [Soap Operas, Botox, face lifts
etc] do not contribute to our happiness. If anything at all, they contribute
to our becoming depressed and unhappy, miserable and sad and inwardly
empty. God is absent! For Jesus, happiness is when we do some acts of
charity to others. In fact, we do not even need to do great things in
order to be loved by others; we only need to be selfless and dispossess
ourselves of what we have and are in order to feel love.
Mother Teresa puts it this way: 'We do not have to do great things, but
doing little things with great love.' We can give a $5. gift to neighbour
with great love behind it and the gift will mean a lot to the recipient
and yet we can give a donation of $1000. without any force of love behind
the giving, and the donation would mean nothing more than a mere gesture
coming from abundance. What an insight!
Sometimes a good person or a rich person may dispossess of himself or
herself of certain finances to help a needy person. Such individuals ascribe
to Mother Teresa's dictum above. I can give you examples of people who
have bravely dispossessed of themselves for my sake and for the sake of
my ministry. They know themselves, and I do not intend to call them out
by name. They know themselves; I can honestly tell them that I am most
grateful to them!
For Jesus, a true disciple does not follow love or happiness that is very
much 'commodified' by the media, Hollywood and tabloid interpretations.
Jesus reminds us that when we commodify love and happiness, we fall into
the temptation of turning our loved ones -- father and mother, spouse,
children, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends into possessions
and by turning them into possessions we destroy them; we mistreat; we
maltreat them as objects without respect or dignity. Some of us as parents
control our kids from childhood and even to adulthood -- 20 years old
and above. As spouses, as friends -- 'How do we treat one another?' With
respect and dignity or with some degree of condescension?
So now, let us examine our consciousness or our weaknesses and mediate
on how we treat other people -- father and mother, spouse, children, brothers
and sisters, relatives and friends. I am hoping that we can begin now
to treat others with respect and dignity so that together, we may grow
healthy -- strengthened physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually
by the Presence of God, who alone is HAPPINESS!
Of what use can we claim to be Jesus' disciples if we are lukewarm or
dead to our faith or are spiritually unmotivating or uninspiring to those
who seek intimacy with God through us? If we walk outside the door if
someone saw us out there, can this person see the Spirit of God in us
and come to tap into this great gift?
May our participation at this Eucharist send us forth as dedicated and
forceful disciples to our world that needs healing from its brokenness!
What kind of a disciple are you? What kind of a disciple am I? At what
cost are we willing to be true disciples of Jesus -- God, the Creator?
Father John-Baptist Okai
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada