23rd Sunday- C
The Catholic world just celebrated the feast of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. On social media there was plenty of praise and thanksgiving for that amazing saint, her life and ministry in the world. All of them was worth reading. From the time I was a young priests to this very day I have had plenty of opportunity to visit the missionaries of Charity sisters and celebrate mass for them. After the mass, I would always take the opportunity to chit chat with them as many of them are basically from India. I am always really impressed with them, especially with their radical nature of life style. As many of you know, they lead a very simple life. Every single day they get up a quarter to five and spend one hour for meditation at the chapel, and then participate in the celebration of the Holy Mass. They don’t have air condition in the house. They only visit their family members once in ten years. Sometimes, they go when their parents die, sometimes they don’t. What a radical life style! Today’s gospel speaks about the radical nature of following Christ.
You remember the Ten Commandments! The fourth one says “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). We know the new commandment of Jesus, “Love one another; even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). But in today’s gospel Jesus says: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). How can we reconcile these seemingly contradictory demands? How can we “hate” those we are supposed to love? And, more importantly, why?
On September 8, 2001, in New York the US Open tennis tournament was going on. For the first time in the history of the tournament, the world was watching an emotional roller-coaster as two sisters who love themselves so much that they live in the same house and share the same hotel room fought each other. Could you imagine what was going on in the minds of Venus and Serena Williams as they battled against each other, suspending their love for each other and at least temporarily “hating” each other? They had to “hate” each other because the one was standing in the way of the other becoming the world champion. The one was an obstacle to the realization of the other’s dream to wear the world crown. And so they had to hate and fight each other. Venus won. But Venus might have told her sister “I am sorry, but I had to do it: I had to fight you so hard, I had to “hate” you because you were standing in my way. That was a rare example of hating those we love, and from it we can learn much about the injunction to “hate” our loved ones.
On a regular basis Venus loves Serena, except when Serena becomes an obstacle on her way preventing her from realizing her ambition to win the crown. Similarly we are to love our parents and siblings and spouses, and indeed everyone else, except when they become obstacles in our way to win the crown of eternal life. The crown of heavenly glory is worth much more than the fleeting crown that Venus won on that day. So we should be prepared to wage an uncompromising war to see that no person or thing stands in our way to make us lose the crown. Possessions constitute a formidable obstacle in many people’s bid for the crown of salvation. That is why Jesus concludes today’s gospel with these words: “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (v. 33).
Dictionary definition to give up is to surrender everything. It is a total act of surrender. You know why people downsize their homes and simplify their life style. Because, the big house seem to overwhelm them. They demand an increasing amount of money, time, and attention. The more we can simplify our lifestyles, the more we can focus on the important things in life. The more we can divert our attention from worrying about material things, the more we can focus on the kingdom of God and its happiness.
Following Jesus is much harder than winning the US Open. Jesus is challenging us to give God a little bit more of our money and a little bit more of our time and a little bit more of our devotion. When people get married they don’t promise to love each other and be faithful to each other 75% of the time. It demands 100 percent. People make an exclusive commitment to each other in the marriage covenant. Likewise attaining Kingdom of God demands our undivided attention. Just think about, do something stand in your way to attain the kingdom of God? And are you willing to give that up?
Some years ago, Time magazine asked a group of Americans to rate one hundred famous events in history as to their significance. The results of that poll are quite amazing. Number one was Columbus’ discovery of America. Three events tied for fourteenth on the list: the discovery of X-rays, the Wright brothers’ first plane flight, and the crucifixion of Jesus. Notice that: Jesus tied for fourteenth. That poll indicates that you and I have not done a very good job of communicating to the world the meaning of the cross and the price Jesus paid for. As a result, many of our family and friends do not know Jesus and His salvation. Many of them are living in sin and dying in sin. That is the result of lukewarm Christianity! We need the “Holy Spirit from on high” (Wis 9:17) to confirm us in faith so that we will decide to live for the Lord totally and radically. Come, Holy Spirit!