TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (4 September 2022)
FIRST READING (Who can conceive what the Lord intends?)
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. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17)
In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge. (Ps 90:1)
You turn man back to dust, saying, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night. (R)
You make an end of them in their sleep; the next morning they are like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades. (R)
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! (R)
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands! (R)
SECOND READING (Receive him no longer as a slave but as a beloved brother.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint 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. — The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Ps 119:135)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your face shine upon your servant; and teach me your laws. (R)
GOSPEL (Anyone of you who does not renounce all possessions cannot be my disciple.)
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.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple”
One of the greatest challenges we face in life is making decisions, and then accepting the consequences of the decisions we make. Surrounded as we are in a world where choices or options are many, we often find it difficult to make the right choice. We go into a supermarket and see shelves filled with choices, each claiming to be “the best.” How to choose? Teenagers and young adults apply to a university and have to choose a major among many choices seemingly forced to “choose a profession” when the choices seem endless. We want cable TV and we face countless choices in the service we choose, the networks available – which is best for me? DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS! If only someone would just tell us which to choose!
Our Gospel today offers us a stark choice for probably the most important decision we will make – for our eternal life. Here Jesus has been ministering in Galilee in the north and now reverses direction southward to journey towards his passion and death in Jerusalem. This journey lasts for ten chapters in Luke, and it is on this journey that we are given insight in what it means to be a true disciple and follower of Jesus through some of the greatest parables in the N.T. On this journey the people follow Jesus in ever-larger. They followed him wherever he went.
As Jesus speaks about self-centered people who refuse to follow him, the crowd cheers. When he attacks the Pharisees as people who look great on the outside, but are rotten on the inside, they cheered. When Jesus warned against legalistic approaches to religion or against the narrowness of the Scribes, the crowds cheered!
But now in today’s Gospel, Jesus stops and turns around to face the crowds themselves – not the rich, not the scribes or Pharisees but the people who were cheering him on. And now he directly asks them to choose! “Now, what about you? Are YOU ready to follow me? Are YOU willing to take up your cross and follow me?” He looks at them – quiet. There was silence. The people did not say “yes” or “no”. The choice was too difficult. For many, to answer this direct and stark invitation to discipleship can be too much.
People willingly followed Jesus but without the challenge of the cross – without personal cost, without sacrifice. Yet the cross is the proving ground, the litmus test for our discipleship. It is under the cross where we show our fidelity, our loyalty to Christ. Like the crowds, we can be fans of Jesus – appreciating all the good things Jesus teaches, the stories, the parables and the quotes. But we are called not to quote Jesus but to follow him with our cross.
Each of us here has his or her cross. It is not a wooden cross like those that adorn churches or hang on the walls at home. But it can be the cross of a family problem, the cross of an illness, the cross of a troubling neighbor or person we work with. It can be the cross of a personal burden that we carry. It can be the cross of responsibilities we have trying to be a family and stay united. Every cross is unique. Our cross is like a fingerprint. No two are the same. People can have the same illness but the pain each experiences is different, unique, and personal. Carrying our cross is our unique and very personal way of showing our fidelity to the Lord.
There are other crosses we carry besides our personal ones. There are crosses generated from the world in which we live. In the past century generations bore the crosses of wars, displacement, exile, political turmoil, natural calamities and fear. We have borne the cross of threats to religious freedom and personal liberty. We face the continual cross of insecurity in the world around us that engenders suspicion and fear. Carrying crosses such as these call on us to be united as a people and remaining the kind of community that has made our cultural heritage and political status a shining light to others.
There is a cross we also carry as being part of the Church. This is the cross of handing on our faith from one generation to another. The culture around us never makes this easy. Yet seeds are sown and produce fruits through our parishes, Catholic schools, hospitals and social works. These seeds produce the people gathered in this church today.
The cross is part of everyone’s life. Our personal cross, the cross of these difficult times in which we currently live and the cross of handing on our faith are all a deep part of our lives. We can either stare at the cross, complain about it, curse it, ignore it, or deny it… or we can follow Jesus by taking the cross up onto our shoulders and carry it faithfully each day. Each of us has a cross; our generation has its own cross; the Church in every age has its cross.
We follow Jesus as a crowd walking behind him, or as committed disciples. That is the choice. The uncommitted crowds may know the stories and sing the praises of Jesus, but the true disciples will know the power and peace and glory of new life that comes from taking up the cross each day and following Christ. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.
The cross in our life traces that unique path by which we follow the Lord. The cross is how we come to spiritual maturity here and now and to glory with Christ forever. What will you choose? Can you, will you take up the CROSS?
Celebrant: As we follow Christ, we are his disciples. In union with the Lord, let us come to the Father who remains our refuge and our strength.
READER: That our Holy Father, our bishops, priests and religious may continue to show forth an example of faithful discipleship, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That we might learn from the love and concern of Saint Paul for his convert, Onesimus, to humbly and selflessly watch over and care for all members of our community, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: [For SMC only] For Sister Esther and the community of the Maryknoll Sisters, that they continue to be a courageous example of taking up the Cross and following the Lord each day, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: [SMC For the deceased members of the Tsoi and Edwards families, for whom this Mass is offered, and] For all those who are in need of our prayers today especially the sick and lonely, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Father of all wisdom, marvelously you created us, and with greater wonders you redeemed us. Hear the prayers of the disciples of your Son; grant our requests today according to your will, through Christ our Lord, (all) AMEN.