23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading – Wisdom 9: 13-18b

From Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 465:  It was a popularly held belief that this book was written by Solomon, but scholarship maintains that it was written long after his reign by an anonymous writer.  The most we can ascertain is that the writer was a learned Greek-speaking Jew and probably a teacher.  He was familiar with Hellenistic philosophy, rhetoric and culture.  A burning issue of those times was how is it that the just suffer and the wicked prosper?  Skepticism and individualism were rampant.

Sound familiar?  It is so hard to discern God’s will for us.  There are no billboards.  We wrestle with what we think is right for us vs. what God may think is right for us.  We also wrestle when bad things happen, and we try to wrap our minds around how that can be.  In the end, the Holy Spirit imparts wisdom to us when we allow Spirit in.  Margaret Silf from Inner Compass (p. 92) says, “God’s will – his desire for me – and my own deepest desire (when I am really living true) are one and the same thing!”  Yet we are so burdened by our “earthen shelter”.  How does this reading speak to you in where you are in your life right now?   We ARE body and soul, so we must make our decisions with our whole self…do you have a process that helps you make decisions in a “whole” way?

Some thoughts on discernment you may find helpful:  Spiritual consolation is any affective movement or state that draws us to God or that helps us to be less centered upon ourselves and to open out to others in generosity, service and love.  Spiritual desolation is just the opposite.  It is any affective movement that draws us away from God an things which have to do with God, and to lead us to be self-centered, closed in and unconcerned about God or other people.  The process of Discernment of Spirits is looking at and sifting our present and past experiences, taking note especially of events, people and situations that are associated with or evoke the moods and feelings of consolation and desolation.  The crucial issue in interpreting and evaluating our feelings in discernment is not so much where the movement or feeling is coming from nor even what exactly the feeling is (joy, guilt, anger, etc) but rather the direction in which the feelings are leading – toward God and one another or away from God and one another.  (From Ears to See, Ears to Hear:  An Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality, David Lonsdale)

2nd Reading – Philemon 9b-10, 12-17

This is the only personal letter of Paul that has survived. Onesimus was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon, a Christian of Colossae. He had joined Paul in prison and under Paul’s influence Onesimus became Christian. Paul is sending him back as “no longer a slave but a brother.” Paul does not abolish slavery, it is true. That would have been impossible in the ancient world. But, rather,  Paul transforms the relationship between master and slave with faith in Christ Jesus.  (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu/23OrdC090510 )

In a way, Paul is asking Philemon to forego his legal rights, ownership and cultural understandings in favor of God’s way of wisdom and love. Right in the middle of this Sunday’s readings, this passage is a powerful example of what the 1st Reading is saying and what Jesus will be asking of us in the Gospel.

What understandings do you have to overcome in order to truly be Jesus’ disciple?  Do you have a friend with whom you can share your heart like Paul and Onesimus?

The Gospel – Luke 14: 25-33

This gospel consists of a string of sayings on the cost of discipleship, followed by two parables to help illustrate what Jesus meant. “Hate’ is a very harsh word. Exaggeration was a common technique for preachers in Jesus’ day; in an oral culture one had to make important points with strength. The original Aramaic (Jesus’ language) might have meant simply to “love less than.” But no matter the translation, the meaning is clear: following Jesus means the surrender of the whole of one’s life. (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu/23OrdC090510How does this challenging gospel speak to you? Why not talk it over with Jesus?

Jesus speaks of preparing ourselves for following him.  We must let go of our attachments.  We must make the commitment.  We must move forward.  All of this is part of the discernment process too.  In making decisions in life, are you moving toward God or away from God?  Is this choice life-giving, even if it’s hard?  Are you willing to see it all the way through?  Does it help others?  Does it make you feel thankful, loving and open to serve?  God wants what is our deepest desire.  We are all called to be the most of who we are…what is that for you?

St. Oscar Romero said, “We should not wonder that a church has a lot of cross to bear.  Otherwise, it will not have a lot of resurrection.  An accommodating church, a church that seeks prestige without the pain of the cross, is not the authentic church of Jesus Christ,” (2/19/1978).  He also said, “A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what gospel is that?  Very nice, pious considerations that don’t bother anyone, that’s the way many would like preaching to be.  Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties, do not light up the world they live in.  They don’t have Peter’s courage, who told that crowd where the bloodstained hands still were that had killed Christ:  ‘You killed him!’  (Acts 2:  23).  Even though the charge could cost him his life as well, he made it.  The gospel is courageous; it’s the good news of him who came to take away the world’s sins,” (4/16/1978).

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