23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 8, 2019
In the past I have mentioned that Scripture writers used all sorts of literary tools to communicate their message, from prose to poetry, from myth to parable, from comic strip to apocalyptic writing. If you don’t know the literary tools being used, you can easily miss the primary message.
In today’s Gospel, Luke uses a literary tool that is important for us to recognize. Do you know what it is? Let me give you a clue.
What do the following statements have in common?
When Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “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,” he was using the literary tool of hyperbole. His listeners would have known that. And the original readers of Luke would have known that.
How do we know this? Well, for one reason, in other parts of Luke, Jesus does not renounce his own family, but rather challenges disciples to embrace other disciples as kin. "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it" (8:21). But this “new family” may very well cause tension in one’s old family.
We get a concrete example of this in our second reading where Paul implores Philemon, the slave owner, to accept the slave Onesimus as a brother and an equal. A radical challenge to the whole Christian community and to family life in those times.
So what’s the strong feeling or impression that Jesus seeks to communicate with this hyperbole?
Bluntly speaking: you want to follow me? It’s harder than you think. It’ll cost you, big time. So, you better calculate the cost—as best you can—and then be willing to give, and give up, what it takes.
Jesus drew a crowd because he healed them and he fed them. But on this day, he turns to them—to us—and says it’s not about the healing, it’s not about the feeding. It’s about the mission to change, redeem, and heal this broken world in which we live.
And Jesus is the central focus, and the cross is the way.
Is his mention of the cross hyperbole as well? “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” I don’t think so. Not hyperbole, but rather symbol. Carrying the cross means taking on this mission and aligning all my work in the world with the work that God is doing in the world.
How does one do this? How do we do this as a community? How do we engage in this mission? What is God calling us to do?
It’s not easy to know. It’s not easy to discern. That’s what our parish theme this year of STOP-LOOK-LISTEN is all about.
And that’s the focus of our all-parish retreat next month: “Responding to God’s Call.” We seek to be in touch with God’s call in our lives right now—no matter our age, no matter our status, no matter our struggles or blessings. And we seek to respond to that call.
Also, as a parish community we seek to discern God’s call for us, and we seek to align our work with God’s work. Our future partnership with De La Salle North Catholic High School is certainly part of that ongoing discernment and I am grateful to those in the parish and at De La Salle who are working on that partnership, including Judy Ludwigsen, Sandy Bossom, Egbert Kunrath, and Oscar Leong.
I am grateful to Mary Evans, Jane Evans, and Jeanne Moser for stepping up to lead our faith formation efforts with children this year.
I am grateful to our new members of the Parish Pastoral Council – Nispet Johnny, Marcial and Diamili Tuz, Margaret Retz, and Peggy Johnson – as they embark on a new year of leadership with their first meeting on Tuesday.
I am aware that we currently need some leaders to step forward in social justice ministry.
I am grateful to so, so many of you who contribute time and talent to the parish in ways far too numerous to mention here. And I am grateful to all of you for your financial support of the parish. Your generosity is truly inspiring to me.
Your homework assignment is this: Give serious consideration to the October parish retreat and commit to attending. If that doesn’t work for you, then I challenge you to take at least one full hour sometime in the next couple of weeks to reflect on this question: In what ways am I called to engage in the mission of Jesus?
To close I just want to share with you the words of one of the Scripture scholars I consulted reflecting the words of Jesus in this passage. He put it this way, “Jesus talks tough and straight, as if saying, (and I’m not making this up), ‘Friends, we’re not on our way to the parish picnic.’”
That commentator obviously didn’t know that we, here at St. Charles, actually are on our way to the parish picnic! Hope you’ll join us after mass today for the annual parish BBQ.