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Sep 3, 2016 Written by  Rev. Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo

23rd Sunday ordinary time year c Be the first to comment!

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Theme: The truth in the cost of discipleship

The cost of discipleship is set of truth before us as the praying assembly every time we gather around the word of God. This truth, told through many generations and in various accents, has been shaped and colored by a multiplicity of different experiences and motivations. Because the truth is often hard to hear, quite difficult to assimilate and challenging to translate into words and deeds, it is sometimes rejected, is regularly ignored and even more frequently is relegated to a sort of waiting room of our lives until such time as that truth might become more convenient or less disturbing. But despite our every attempt to avoid it, the truth continues to speak. Like the proverbial 2,000 Kilograms elephant in the room that we would rather talk around, the truth remains. The decision to listen and to heed that truth is the daily challenge of every would-be disciple of God, of Jesus.

In order to be prepared for their mission, the disciples must be free of every encumbrance and attachment. To make his point, Jesus says, “Anyone who does not renounce all possessions cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:33. He doesn’t say ‘some possessions’ or ‘surplus possessions’, but ‘all’ of them. When statements like this one are proclaimed in our hearing, how many of us hear a little voice from deep within ourselves saying, ‘You can’t be serious’? Other voices will argue against the practicality or feasibility of such an idea. Nevertheless, it remains the inconvenient and disturbing truth that discipleship cannot be lived out in half measures. Any authentic following of Jesus will require the absolute commitment of all we are, all we have and all we ever hope to be.

First Reading: Wisdom 9:13-18

In today’s first reading, the book of Wisdom tells the truth about our human condition. Though we are always wracked with limitations and potentially fatal flaws, human beings are nevertheless among God’s most wonderful creatures. Even more importantly, God has chosen to commune with human beings, and does so by sending the Holy Spirit from on high. This spirit helps human beings to recognize the truth, hear it correctly and live by it faithfully, whatever the cost. Observing the human condition, this is what is evident. There is something that pulls us upward and there is something that pulls us down; and the consequence is we tremble, we clash but in the end we get a golden crown. This book of Wisdom is sure that human beings live out their existence in a tension between good and evil. We are drawn from one condition and then to the other. It is an ongoing struggle to maintain a balanced life.

The Book of Wisdom shares some old age ideas regarding the burdensome, fractious dichotomy between body and soul, yet the same Book is certain that as believers we need not be ‘lukewarm’. On the contrary, in our efforts to choose good and refuse evil, we have the God-given support of the Holy Spirit. That same Holy Spirit enlightened and guided Solomon, to whom the book of Wisdom was traditionally credited. This text is based upon that episode in the great king’s life when God urged him to pray for whatever he desired and it would be given him. To his credit, Solomon asked for wisdom to know how to govern well. The source of that wisdom, as Solomon knew, is God. Therefore, it was God’s will and God’s ways that Solomon was trying to discern so as to lead the Israelites in a wise and worthy manner.

Although the true identity of the Book of Wisdom remains a mystery, we are almost sure that it could have been written almost nine centuries after Solomon’s tenth-century B.C reign with an intention to illustrate to that true wisdom can only be found in following God and not in ascribing to one or more of the many rational systems of their day. As attractive as these were, none had the capacity to lead their followers to the knowledge that is God’s prerogative alone. Therefore the Book of Wisdom is intent upon redirecting our attention towards God and to the superior wisdom we can find only in God. Two references to God’s counsel frame this text cf. Wisdom 9:13,18 and offers added emphasis to the fact that it is God’s will that the divine wisdom be known and accessible to human beings. As believers who are privileged to live on this side of the Christ-event, we rejoice that the wisdom of God has become flesh in Jesus. In Jesus, wisdom has lived and moved among us, revealing in word and work the will and ways of God. In our desire to access God’s wisdom in Jesus, we are to remember that his is a wisdom that is often illogical, impractical and contrary to the wisdom of the world. Yet, it is his wisdom that brings life, order and peace. Jesus’ wisdom is God’s gift to all who sincerely seek the truth.

Second Reading: Letter to Philemon verses 9-10, 12-17

Something of the costliness of living by God’s truth is attested in today’s second reading. In his letter to Philemon, Paul reminds his friend that his discipleship requires him to examine every aspect of his life through the prism of Gospel truth. That means that he has to look with newly enlightened eyes on Onesimus and to see him no longer as a slave or a ‘living tool’ but as a human being and as his brother in Christ. This same truth confronts each one of us with the difficult and often seemingly impossible truth that our discipleship must influence the way we perceive others as well as the manner in which we treat them. Regardless of the law, or politics, or social mores, or centuries-old distrust and hatred, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul’s correspondence with Philemon is the shortest of all of his letters and the only one addressed solely to one person, and it summarizes the entire Gospel in its 335 words: Love one another, receive, serve and forgive one another as true brothers and sisters in Christ.

Calling himself an old man and a prisoner for Christ, Paul probably wrote this letter from prison in Ephesus about the year 54 or 55. His recipient, Philemon, was a prominent member of the Church in Colossae who opened his home to the community for prayer and fellowship. Onesimus, a slave in Philemon’s household, had run away and taken refuge with Paul. Legally, Onesimus had no rights. By Roman law, slaves were living tools whose very existence depended upon their owners. Had he been caught and allowed to live, Onesimus may have lived the rest of his days with an ‘F’ for fugitivus/fugitive branded on his forehead. Fortunately, Onesimus was not apprehended but made his way to Ephesus and to Paul, who converted him to Christ. The two grew close during their time together and Paul referred to the runaway as “my child” Philemon verse 10. Onesimus, which is translated ‘useful’, had lived up to his name and had proved very helpful to Paul in his ministry. Nevertheless, and without questioning the justice or injustice of the institution of slavery, Paul recognized Philemon’s right of proprietorship and sent Onesimus back to him. However, Paul urged Philemon to recognize the new status Onesimus now enjoyed as a believer in Christ and invited him to welcome Onesimus home as more than a slave but as a brother in the Lord.

Rather than try to revamp an entire society that condoned slavery, Paul worked at changing the hearts of people one at a time. By calling Philemon to change his heart and attitude toward Onesimus, Paul sought to transform their relationship from one of ownership to partnership, and from one of legality to love. In all this Paul’s letter to Philemon is continuous reawakening to all of us to stay attentive to the importance of individual and communal ministries that advocate and work for social justice. These ministries are ready also to defy social conventions and offer forgiveness even to those who have wronged us or another person in some way. The tone of the letter also speaks to the manner in which leaders exercise their authority over others. Paul appealed to Philemon with gentle persuasion and with respect rather than with the heavy hand of one who enjoys throwing his authoritative weight around. Paul’s manner, his care and the love he showed for all people regardless of their status continue to recommend his example to all of us.

Gospel Luke 14:25-33

Another difficult truth regarding discipleship is addressed in the Gospel. Jesus wants his disciples to be fully aware of the disturbing cost of their belonging to him. Like the tower builder and the king about to do battle, they are to take stock of themselves and realize that they are embarking on a mission that will cost them not less than everything. Ordinarily, those about to embark on such a great undertaking plan for it by procuring whatever supplies and equipment they might need so that they will not be inconvenienced later. But convenience does not factor into the challenge of following Jesus. No matter how many times this Gospel is preached, and regardless of how familiar its message has become, it retains a certain ‘cringe’ quality. To include the word ‘hate’ in the same sentence as father and mother, brothers and sisters is almost repulsive. It is also difficult for us to hear we need to ‘renounce all possessions’ in order to be a disciple of Jesus. In between these two challenges are the images of the tower builder and the king marching against troops that outnumber his own two to one. It is clear that Jesus wished his disciples to be fully cognizant and duly prepared to meet the very dear cost of authentic discipleship. If anything, discipleship cannot be casual, and it is, more often than not, inconvenient. Still, Jesus calls, and with the grace that comes with that call, disciples continue to follow. Although Jesus’ words may sound exceedingly harsh to our ears, those in the crowd who listened to him that day would not have been so offended. Rather, they were accustomed to such Semitisms being used as a way to stress a point. In the life of the disciple, Christ and the claims of the Gospel are foremost, and all other considerations, even family and possessions, are secondary. Jesus did not demand that his followers suddenly surrender all property or sever their ties to their family. Such behavior could even destroy authentic Christian values. What Jesus asks of his own is a spirit of detachment such that in the interests of Christ and the Gospel, the disciple is ready, at any time, to leave all else so as to be firmly attached to Jesus.

If we have been careful listeners we should have noted that according to Luke, Jesus had just left the home of a leading Pharisee, where he challenged his dinner companions with his teachings and was now addressing the great crowds who were traveling with him. Discipleship was not a special way of life for only the Twelve or even for the 72 whom Jesus sent forth on a mission cf. Luke Chapter 10. On the contrary, Jesus’ call to discipleship is freely extended to all who are hearing him. In the parable immediately preceding this account, Jesus made it clear that he did not discriminate; rather, Jesus welcomed to discipleship the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame as well as those who could be found on the highways and gatecrashers. Jesus chose to ignore traditional societal protocol and hierarchies. He did not call the perfect, the self-righteous or the acceptable. Those called by Jesus did not have much to recommend them as leaders and life-changers. Not only were they considered to be of little consequence in the minds of their contemporaries, they were deemed unclean and therefore, unsalvageable. But it was these very unlikely candidates whom Jesus called to carry on his saving work among sinners. In their continuing responsiveness to his call, with all of its disturbing inconveniences, these least and lowly ones grew into disciples whose example and service continues to impact the world.

Application

The message is: If you decide to follow Jesus you had better be prepared to go all the way, whatever the cost. To answer the call, let Grace take hold in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Before you commit, sit down and calculate the cost. It makes perfect sense. Yet the good thing is that discipleship is not building a tower or deploying an army. It is a relationship. It is a love experience. And like all love stories, it will unfold in stages, involve many layers of self-discovery, be different for each person who attempts it. No one can know in advance what the cost will be or whether failure will be part of the story. For almost all of the apostles, failure was. Peter, the most confident of the Twelve, was the biggest failure. In the clutch, he disowned Jesus. He walked away. The others fled, abandoning Jesus as he went to the cross. Even after the resurrection, they were slow to believe, reluctant to recommit. But as love unfolds, failure finds forgiveness, the broken heart heals, and all of this becomes part of the story. Peter learns mercy by receiving it and is then is ready to preach it. The scattered disciples are gathered, reconciled, made ministers of the gospel of unconditional love.

So what is the message? All the above! If we follow Jesus we must do it wholeheartedly, intending to complete what we begin. Discipleship is a love story whose twists and turns we cannot know. And be sure of this: Love must grow to keep pace with the demands of the journey. Our first love, the enthusiasm we began with, will need to give way to a deeper, more practical, less emotionally satisfying love. Time and trial will force us to adjust to changing circumstances and new demands. We have to expect doubt and frustration and damaged pride to challenge our progress, to make us wonder if it’s all worth it or if we were mistaken, even duped, when we first said yes. But despite all of this, we must perceiver in the relationship. In fact, failure comes so often that at times we may stop paying any attention to it. Just be faithful. Idealistic love burns off like the morning dew when the noonday sun bears down on our labour with Jesus. Again and again as a disciple remember that love is sometimes a harsh and dreadful thing. When the journey of love becomes tough going, know that we are not lost but on track. This is what it means experiencing the very essence of discipleship.

776 Last modified on Saturday, 03 September 2016 14:21

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Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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