05 September 2010

FIGURING OUT

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 14:25-33

His mother advised him: “Whatever you say, say nothing.” However, Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet, did not heed his mother’s advice. Reflecting on his relationship with his father who was a quiet farmer, Heaney wrote how his father’s silence was a constant challenge for a son who wished to know him more and be closer to him. In his poem entitled, Follow, Heaney wrote:

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

That son started trying to follow the footsteps of the father, but he realized later on that, because their skills were different, their harvests were not the same: potatoes for his father, poems for the son. Truly, very different! Nonetheless, despite the great difference between their skills, their roots kept them attached to each other. It is correct to say, indeed, that no matter how close to each other, each one has to figure out for himself or herself his or her own vocation in life.

In our first reading today, the author of the book of Wisdom keeps our eyes open to the truth that it should not surprise us to find how difficult it is for us to grasp the mind of God because just to understand one another is already hard for us. In fact, sometimes we fail to understand our selves too. While the author of the book of Wisdom talks to God, he actually address himself to us when he says, “For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.”

In the second reading today, we have part of the letter of St. Paul the Apostle to a man named Philemon. Whoever wishes to understand the contents of this letter needs to know its context. From Jerusalem, where he was arrested, Paul – because of his dual citizenship – demanded that he be tried in Rome by the Roman curia. Upon disembarking in Rome, Paul was immediately put under house arrest. What we read today in the liturgy is the part of Paul’s letter where he figured out how to send back a runaway slave to its Christian master. The Christian master was Philemon while the runaway slave was Onesimus. When Onesimus ran away from his master, he met Paul and was converted into Christianity. Thus, the former slave was returning to his former master as a brother already. The words of Paul were carefully written from the heart: “I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. Perhaps, this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So, if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.” Pulling some strings, Paul, though imprisoned, set his love into action to set free one who was formerly imprisoned by slavery.

Indeed, our readings today have many figuring out to do. Even in the gospel, Jesus advises us to think really carefully. The demands of following Him are difficult. While Christian discipleship absolutely does not mean going around wearing long faces, it is also certainly not a laughing matter. Thus, anyone who wishes to truly follow Jesus must first carefully figure out over and over again the cost of Christian discipleship. He or she must also consider well if he or she has the resources to meet the cost of following Jesus.

Many times, the heaviest cross we have to bear is not what we need to embrace but what we must let go on account of our following Jesus. In following Jesus, in becoming more like Him, many tend to think only in terms of what they have to do. But there is also so much that we need to undo in order to truly and fully carry our cross each day. We have to undo our pride, our inordinate attachments, our selfish motives, our illicit relationships, our doubts, our indifference, our self-sufficiency, our greed, our sins, etc. We need to undo our selves and allow the grace of God to re-invent us from deep within. We must die to our selves so that we may be a new creation in Christ. The challenge is just too difficult. It requires more than just serious thought.
Thus, after stating His demands, Jesus advises us to think well before deciding to follow Him. The demands are heavy and the considerations they require are great. Difficult demands involve difficult decisions. And difficult decisions are best made on one’s knees.

To underline the value of His advice, Jesus gives us a pair of parables today. whoever plans to build a tower must first sit down and calculate if he has enough resources to spend because if he has none and has started to build nonetheless, the tower of his dreams will be nothing but a colossal monument to his stupidity. In the same way, the king who discovers that his forces are outnumbered by his enemies must also first sit down and discern if he will attack or detract. In this pair of parables, the wise advise given to us is as clear as the sun: sit down, pause, do not rush, study the cost, reflect on the demands, discern well.

Christian discipleship is following the broad shadow of a Master who traveled through a life of loving, carrying a cross over his shoulder. And not one us can do that casually. We must pray and discern well. We do have a lot of figuring out to do. Do we really give time for it?

2 Comments:

At 7:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The values of deep faith, compassion,concern for others especially the weak in character, the let- go of selfishness,
of material things,
of feeling superior,
of power and authority,
of being proud,
are in a special manner, have to be counted on and with its characterizing traits of PEACE,and the most important aspect - LOVE
is a step ahead of following Jesus.

We have a lot to give up, to gain Jesus - Jesus who is Love.
---------

Thank you Fr. Bobby for your Homily that never fades.

God bless you and family always.

-rory

 
At 2:20 AM , Anonymous Rodolfo Rabonza said...

Your explanation on evaluating your resources before following Christ is very enlightening. I heard this reading from Church last Sunday, and I actually said in my prayer that I did not understand what Christ said about calculating resources before building a tower. Your article clarified this -- it is an answered prayer. Thank you very much, Fr. Bob! God bless you!

 

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