Homily 23rd Sunday Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Wisdom 9:13-18b; Ps 90:3-6, 12-17; Philm 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33
Giving up Our Possessions to be the disciple of Christ
In the Gospel reading of today Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life he cannot be my disciple.” And again, “whoever does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciples.” And lastly, he says, “anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciples.”
In all these, we know Jesus is not recommending hatred of our neighbors, in the literal sense of hatred. Our Lord is not recommending that we go to a carpenter or furniture maker to have a cross made for us. Neither is Jesus suggesting that to own a house, or a car or basic necessities of life are wrong.
Rather our Lord is reminding us that to be a Christian, to be his follower is a lot work. It demands some sacrifices. These sacrifices include getting rid- of anything that could have stood on our way between the love of God and the love our neighbors. Excessive possessions of material things could be one of them. But what about the possession of an ideology or philosophy of life and worldview that is contrary to the gospel (Christ's worldview). One could be possessed by selfishness, arrogance, insensitivity to the need of the community of ones’ neighbor. What about divisive tendencies? Again one could be possessed by ignorance or bad habits or by a conscience wrongly formed; or by the refusal to see things in the eyes of hope, faith and love.
By the time today’s first reading was written, about fifty years before the coming of Christ, suffering, persecution and acts of injustices would have been the order of the day in the community of Jews who had not only experienced exile, but were returning home from exile. For the author of the Book of Wisdom, we got to see things in the eye of faith. We also got to see things in the eyes of justice and God’s mercy, which has always been there from creation, through the wilderness experience. Furthermore, endurance and perseverance must be part of our faith community. We must not allow ourselves to be possessed by faithlessness, despair and selfishness. This is where true wisdom lies.
From a prison in Rome, Paul pointed this out too in his Letter to Philemon, concerning the slave, Onesimus. It is most likely that Onesimus had done something wrong. He ran away from his master to Paul for safety. Granted that Onesimus has been converted, obviously through Paul’s preaching, Paul is not interested in possessing, keeping nor taking advantage of Onesimus. Paul selflessly judges that Onesimus return to his master. He pleaded that his master takes him back not just as a slave, but as a brother in the spirit of Christ Jesus.
It is this spirit of Christ, or doing things in the spirit of Christ that is recommended for each of us on our Christian journeys; the spirit of oneness. The Spirit to be able to let certain things go for the sake of peace and love. It is the spirit of dialogue and not violence; the spirit of peace not war and terrorism; the spirit of forgiveness not vengeance; the spirit of obedience to the teachings of the church, the counsels of our mentors, the advice of our parents and good teachers; the spirit of unity not division; the spirit of tolerance and to always be able to ask ourselves, “what would Christ have done in this given situation?”
We must forgive. We must bear pains of illnesses, and even the pains of the loss of our loved ones patiently. We must also give up our bad-possessed habits and old ways of thinking, especially if they are not in line with the gospel of Christ. To do these could be challenging. And this is where Christ warns us that, “anyone who does not renounce all his (or her) possessions cannot be my (his) disciple.”