September 8, 2019 – 23ndSunday in OT and Birthday of Mary
A reading from the Book of Wisdom (9:13-18b)
Who can know God’s counsel,
or who can conceive what the LORD intends?
For the deliberations of mortals are timid,
and unsure are our plans.
For the corruptible body burdens the soul
and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.
And scarce do we guess the things on earth,
and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;
but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?
Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.
A reading from the Letter of Paul to Philemon (9-10,12-17)
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.
I should have liked to retain him for myself,
so that he might serve me on your behalf
in my imprisonment for the gospel,
but I did not want to do anything without your consent,
so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.
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.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke (14:25-33)
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple.”
All of these letting go are experiences that would tell us how a certain sacrifice could bring life and how a person could let go something in order to address a greater need.
Such experiences are the very ground where God reveals himself to us. These experiences are not remote from the stories we have heard in the bible. So, let us discover together how God invites us today.
The Gospel seems to be quite harsh and lacking emotional affection towards our family. Jesus asks his disciples to “hate” our family and even our own life, only then that we can be true disciples. When we too will not be able to renounce our possession then we cannot be his disciples too.
However, what Jesus really meant for this? Is hate here means to plant hatred towards our loved ones? Do we need to be destitute materially just for us to be able to follow him?
What Jesus meant invites us towards the process of letting go. To be a true Christian, a disciple of the Lord, requires us availability and commitment. Each of us is asked to make the Lord as the priority in everything we do, no matter what our status is, whether you are married, a priest or a nun, or complicated, in a relationship, broken-hearted or single.
This is what we find in the life of Paul who sacrificed his family, privileged status as a Pharisee and even his life to become a prisoner for Christ. He let go the comforts of his life because he found a greater treasure in Christ. Consequently, Paul was able to give life to many Christian churches. This was what he was sharing to his friend Philemon. He invited Philemon to exercise such spirit of letting go by treating his slave Onesimus, not anymore as a slave but as a friend and a brother.
As it was difficult for Paul to let go of his comforts as a rich Jew, Philemon had surely found it difficult to let go of his slave and treat him instead as a brother. Philemon was invited not to be possessed by this, for him to be freer and also to give freedom to Onesimus.
This is what Jesus meant that anyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be his disciple. Philemon was invited to let go of his slave so that he will be able to give life to Onesimus.
Moreover, the Book of Wisdom is a reminder to us how we could be easily driven by our desire to accumulate for ourselves. Human understanding tend to be selfish. Yet, we are called not to let our human tendencies to control us but also to seek the grace of God’s wisdom. We can only attain such wisdom when we too are more welcoming of God’s presence in our life, attuned to God’s revelations in our life.
This is what we can learn from Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help whose birthday we celebrate today. In her life, she made many experiences of letting go. From the annunciation of the angel, Mary let go her plans for herself and the normal way of being a wife and a mother in order to give way to God’s desire. Most surely, Mary did not understand well everything that had to happen, yet, she let go of certainties in life and took the risk of trusting God’s wisdom at work through her. With that, her life has completely changed. She became an extra-ordinary mother. And as a mother, she also had to let go of her son from her comfort which led to the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. She had to let go of him so that Jesus can bring life to all.
In the same way, we are invited by the Lord to let go of whatever that is possessing us now. It could our desire to be rich and famous, or our tendency to seek comfort and praise. It could also be our addictions and compulsive behaviors. This could also be our attachments to certain things or painful memories or even attachments to people.
It is in letting go of whatever that possessed us or from our attachments that we will surely become free, available and committed. In that way, God calls us to be able to give life. Is it not wonderful? It is, indeed! Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR