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Homily (Reflection) for the Twenty-Third Sunday of the Year (C) (08th September, 2019) on the Gospel

Wis 9:13-18;
Ps 89:3-6.12-14.17. (R. v.1);
Philemon 9-10.12-17;
Lk 14:25-33.
Graham Stuart Staines an Australian Missionary came to India and made Orissa [sic] his home. He was working tirelessly for the poor lepers and was uplifting them from their tragic poverty. His wife Gladys Steins [sic] was his co-worker in the Lord’s vineyard. He has one elder daughter and two sons – Timothy and Philip. On that fateful night, January 23, 1999 Steins [sic] along with his two sons were burnt to death by members of a fringe Hindu organization.
Steins [sic] knew very well that his work was dangerous. He was surrounded by fanatics, his life and the life of his family was at a great risk. Yet, his love for God was so great, that he remained amidst these people and worked for them and died for them.
....After sacrificing her husband and two of her beloved sons, this noble lady [Gladys Staines] forgave the executioners and remained at Baripada in Orissa [sic] to continue the noble work he beloved husband started.[1]
Topic: Understanding our call.
Jesus said to the large crowds who travelled with Him in today’s gospel, “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. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
These words of Jesus might look ridiculous in this world of uncertainties as a result of which people engage in different forms of security – human as well as non-human. People invest in different things – property, stocks, bank accounts and so on. Those entrusted with public coffer embezzle. All these are geared towards a secured tomorrow. Jesus is not unaware of all these yet He gave us this precondition for being His disciples.
The large crowds travelling with Him had different intentions. According to Barclay, “the crowds ... thought that he was on his way to an empire” thereby seeing being His disciples as a way of securing their tomorrow. In the same vein, people who fill churches today have different intentions. Imagine the number of people in churches especially on Sundays yet our society is yet to feel the impact. If one measures the number of Christians with the number of people in the churches, how faulty will the result be? In the words of Barclay, “It is one of the supreme handicaps of the church that in it there are so many distant followers of Jesus and so few real disciples”.[2] Among those who fill churches today are those specialized in picking people’s purses and wallets whenever they leave their seats/pews for whatever reason.
A Christian must be able to say with Saint Paul:
Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8, cf. 3:7).
Counting everything as loss does not exclude even one’s self. Hence, for St Paul, “to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). In the words of Pope Saint Gregory the Great in his Homilies on the Gospels,
Perhaps it is not after all so difficult for a man to part with his possessions, but it is certainly most difficult for him to part with himself. To renounce what one has is a minor thing; but to renounce what one is, that is asking a lot.[3]
Jesus’ warning is that being His disciple has price tag. It implies denying oneself and taking ones cross daily and follow Jesus Christ, cf. Lk 9:23; Matt 10:38, 16:24, Mk 8:34. Giving up everything implies leaving everything at Jesus’ disposal; that Jesus can use us as well as our possessions for whatever He wills and as Christians our duty is to cooperate with Him.
We might have been “...foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another” (Tit 3:3) but to be a Christian is to have Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Saviour, (cf. 2Pt 1:11), to recognize Him as the master and oneself as his slave cf. Rom 6:22. Being a Christian is loving Jesus more than anything else, cf. Jn 21:15-17. Armellini writes,
The lesson is clear: don’t deceive yourself; you are not a disciple of Christ simply because you listen to his gospel and feel enthusiastic about it. You have to see if you can do what he asks you to do.[4]
It is necessary to give up everything because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:21; Lk 12:34). Our fathers in the faith laid very good examples for us. Hence Peter said, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you” Mt 19:27, Mk 10:28, cf.  Lk 18:28. They did that because they discovered the richness in Christ Jesus, cf. Phil 3:8. Graham Stuart Staines must have discovered this too. Otherwise, what could have spurred him to live with his family in such a hostile environment? His wife, Gladys did not only forgive the murderers but also continued the work until 2005. What Christ has in stock for his disciples is much more than what they left, cf. Acts 3:1-8. The choice is ours; everyone is free to be Christ’s disciple but he/she must give up everything including him/herself.
Bible Reading: Matt 6:25-34; Mk 8:31-38; Phil 1:15-22.
Thought for today: Are you really Christ’s?
Let us pray:
Jesus I love you,
All I have is yours,
Yours I am and yours I want to be
Do with me whatever you will – Amen.

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[1] Sagayanathan, A., (2009). Launching Pad: Stories for Sunday Homilies, Year-A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, p. 324.
[2] Barclay, W., (2006). The daily study bible, the gospel of Luke, IV. Bangalore: Theological Publications in India, p.196.
[4] Armellini, F., (2007). Celebrating the word, Year C. Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, p. 214.

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