23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Wi. 9:13–18b

Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.

Second reading: Phlm. 9–10,12–17

I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

Gospel: Lk. 14:25–33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

In other words 

Fr. Edwin Fernandez, SVD (Divine Word College, Laoag City)

My last mission assignment in Chile was the formation of our seminarians from 2004 until 2009. I remember one particular year when I welcomed to the seminary our newcomers (the postulants) with their families. Part of the event was to gather in the chapel for a special moment of prayer and sharing. When I asked the parents to share their sentiments regarding their sons’ decision to enter the seminary, one mother gave us a real shock when she angrily told her son that if something bad would soon befall her, be it a serious illness or death, it would all be his fault due to the decision he had made. After more than a year in the seminary, the said postulant eventually decided to leave and heed his mother’s demands.

Jesus lays down clearly the conditions for becoming his disciples. He demands that we love him above anyone else and above anything in this world. In another Gospel text, he firmly teaches that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve both God and wealth, for we will love one and despise the other.

Is it not true, however, that many people are trying to serve and love both God and their wealth? God and their selfish ambitions? Some use God in order to attain material prosperity. Some preach so well that they can convince people to turn over to them a significant portion of their wealth.

In practice, there are lukewarm disciples who might love Jesus but not wholeheartedly. These are still attached to themselves and their prized possessions. They love Jesus but just a little for fear of having to lose themselves and the things they most value. These end up building their own kingdoms and not the kingdom of God, which Jesus zealously proclaimed in word and deed, even at the expense of his own life. The lukewarm love of disciples toward Jesus makes it so difficult for them, if not impossible, to carry their own crosses and follow him. We know for certain that those who are unwilling to suffer and die with and for Jesus cannot hope to share in his everlasting glory in heaven.

Is there a person, relationship, or anything in this world that seriously hinders my total giving of self in love to Jesus? “Jesus, give me the grace to love and follow you faithfully with an undivided heart. Amen.”

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