Saturday, September 3, 2016

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

I first delivered this homily way back in 2010; it still kind of works although if I were preaching this weekend I sure would remember Mother Teresa as she is canonized a Saint.

Follow the yellow brick road; follow the yellow brick road! Yes I must admit that one of my all time favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz. The fact that this classic endures since it's release in 1939, is part of it’s allure and charm. We all know that Dorothy had to be a committed follower of the yellow brick road. Meeting friends and facing challenges along the way she steadfastly followed that yellow brick road all the way to Oz; the destination that would lead her to her ultimate goal of reaching her home.

In our lives we have had to follow. We follow our family and friends; we follow instructions; we follow road maps; we follow the Saints. Some of us follow faithfully while others let distractions or even family or friends from following the right path.

As people of faith, are we faithfully following Jesus to our ultimate goal of reaching our true home? Are we committed to let nothing stand in our way to follow Jesus?

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke is a bit of a shocker. Are we hearing Jesus tell us to follow Him we must hate our loved ones? Is this not the same Jesus that has taught us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to give our cloak to the one who takes our coat, to go an extra mile with the one who forces us into service? It certainly is! So does Jesus want us to hate our family? Of course not! Jesus is teaching the crowd that is pressing in on him as they follow him for all the wrong reasons. Remember, all these many past weeks we have heard lessons and parables from Jesus as he makes his way back to Jerusalem. This road is far from a yellow brick road; it is a long and difficult road. The people are expecting Jesus to return to Jerusalem like a conquering hero; one who will overthrow the Roman Empire and engage in a battle that will restore freedom in Jerusalem. It is Jesus who knows that he returns to face the Cross; to be beaten and nailed to that Cross; to be crucified, to die, to be buried. And it is Jesus who knows and trusts the plan of the Father and he will rise on the third day. It is Jesus, and those true followers who will understand that He is more than a conquering hero, he overthrows more than a human army and he restores our freedom not to live in Jerusalem or any other human destination but true freedom forever with Him in Heaven.

But Jesus is far from naïve. He tells us to carry our own cross on our journey. Far from hating mom and dad Jesus is telling us that we will be forced to face distraction after distraction that will keep us from truly following Him. If it be our own family that keeps us from Christ, if it be our friends, if it be anything that keeps us from Christ, Jesus is telling us to be firm and fix our gaze on Him. Jesus wants committed followers not fair-weather friends.

And what about the story of the tower and the army? Yet another parable? Jesus continues to teach us to follow him with eyes wide open; to be ultimately prepared to persevere to the end. Some of us will lay a strong foundation in following Jesus but will we run out of steam in constructing our tower? Will we prepare fully for the demands of discipleship? Will we depend on Him when the path gets hard to follow and our towers become difficult to construct?

What does all of this mean for us today? Are we not followers of Christ on the right path and ready to build that tower all the way to completion? These are the questions this Gospel challenges us to answer. The lesson from Jesus today is radical. How radical are we willing to be in following Him? Will we truly be able to choose Him even over family and friends if that is what is required of us to be faithful? Perhaps we can follow the model of our own St. Jane who trusted fully in God’s will for her life and founded her religious order despite selfish protests from her own son.

With the month of September many of us realize that we are slowly moving from summer to fall. Soon we will physically notice many changes around us. What better time and what better message than that which we have heard to effect spiritual change in our lives. As we evaluate if we are on the right path, we can ask ourselves how long since our last confession? How long since we last sincerely sought His forgiveness and mercy in that great Sacrament of Love. And since this is September, the Church gives us the month of the Seven Sorrows. This beautiful devotion, using the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows is a wonderful prayer that can help us to keep our focus on Jesus. And to stay on this right path we can keep Scripture handy and with us throughout the week. If we are following Jesus with that radical following that He demands of us are we willing to admit that Sunday’s readings should not be our only time spent in the Bible? Can we this week spend 15 minutes every night with a passage of Scripture? May I suggest reading the Gospel of Luke which we are following until the end of this church year?

Yes, Dorothy and her friends followed the yellow brick road; faithfully and they arrived at OZ so Dorothy could arrive home. We too can follow a road; the road that Jesus walked; with no one to hold us back, with no distraction to take us off path, with eyes wide open. We won’t arrive at OZ, but like Dorothy we can arrive at our real home, our true home; with Jesus forever!

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