September 3, 2019

O. T. 23 (Sept 8-C) Sunday: Wis 9:13-18b; Phlm 9-10, 12-17; Lk 14:25–33

OT XXIII [C] (Sept 8, 2019) Homily- One-page summary

Central theme: Today’s readings challenge us to the true Christian discipleship of total commitment to the will of God, putting God first in our lives.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, instructs us to ask for the gifts of discernment and strength from the Holy Spirit so that we may do the will of God as His true disciples.

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), instructs true disciples to lead holy lives by remaining constantly aware of the brevity and uncertainty of life.

The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s letter to Philemon, teaches us that detachment and renunciation are necessary for a true disciple of Christ. As a responsible Apostle and zealous disciple of Christ, Paul had to renounce the service of his new helper, Onesimus, and return him to his master.  As a new disciple of Christ, Onesimus had to leave Paul, face his owner as a runaway slave and accept the consequences.

Today’s Gospel reminds us to count the cost of being a disciple and follower of Christ because the cost is high:  true Christian discipleship requires one to “renounce” both earthly possessions and possessions of the heart (i.e., one’s relationships).  In today’s Gospel, Jesus lays out four conditions for true Christian discipleship. 1) Renounce too much attachment to family, giving priority to God and His commandments.

2) Break off the excessive attachment to possessions by leading a detached life, willingly sharing one’s blessings with others.

3) Be ready to carry the cross and follow Jesus  by i) gracefully accepting and lovingly offering our pains and suffering with Jesus on the cross for the salvation of all of us ii) sharing our blessings sacrificially with others iii) by accepting the  pain involved in controlling our evil habits and tendencies  and iv) by welcoming the pain and humiliation we suffer in professing our faith in public and by practicing it in daily lives,  standing with Jesus, his ideas and ideals.

4) Calculate the cost involved in following Jesus. Using the two parables of the tower-builder and the king defending his country, Jesus says: think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made and remain committed to it.

Life messages: We need to accept the challenge of Christian discipleship with heroic commitment and practice it. We do so: 1) by daily recharging our spiritual batteries through prayer, i.e., by talking to God, and by listening to Him through the meditative reading and study of the Bible; 2) by sharing in God’s life through frequent and active participation in the Eucharistic celebration; 3) by practicing the spirit of detachment and the renunciation of evil habits; 4) by giving our time, talents and resources generously, for the Lord’s work in the Church universal, and especially in our parish community, relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, 5) by loving all God’s children, especially the less fortunate ones, through humble and selfless acts of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and service; 6) by showing true commitment to the obligations and duties entrusted to us by our vocation in life and our profession, like fidelity in marriage and firm adherence to justice in our living and profession.

Video homily by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: http://frtonyshomilies.com/ 

OT XXIII [C] (Sept 8) Wis 9:13-18b; Phlm 9-10, 12-17; Lk 14:25–33

Homily starter anecdotes # 1: ‘We will drill you and drill you, then drill you again.” Each Fall, a lot of young boys aspire to become football players. But only a few will find their way onto the high school or university teams. Every year a coach challenges the hopefuls, explaining the cost involved: “Your muscles will ache from calisthenics. We’ll run you till you think you can run no more. We will drill you and drill you, then drill you again, every day, after school. There’ll be no drugs, no alcohol. Only if you work hard will you make the team. If you don’t, you won’t.” The personal, economic, and emotional cost of becoming a professional athlete or an Olympics Medalist is still higher. Young children spend hours a day practicing their skills and submitting themselves to rigorous programs of diet and exercise to become great gymnasts or dancers. Others accept the cost of dedicating years to study and hard work to become outstanding doctors or lawyers or scientists or writers. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his would-be followers to calculate the cost in following him, because they will have to leave their families and possessions and accept the pain and suffering involved in following him as true disciples.

# 2: Hating father and mother: St. Thomas More was the Lord Chancellor, when Henry VIII was the King of England. More was a successful lawyer, a great linguist and a renowned spiritual and political writer. His book, Utopia, has become a classic. When he refused to take an oath supporting the Act of Succession, which a) recognized the offspring of Henry and his second wife Anne Boleyn as the heir to the throne; b) declared Henry’s first marriage with Catherine as null and void, and c) repudiated the Pope, More was imprisoned in the Tower of London in the year 1534. Thomas More could not, with any honesty, approve Henry’s second marriage to Anne, and he could not acknowledge the King as the supreme head of the Church of England. His family implored him – for his sake and theirs – to take the oath. More’s beloved daughter, Margaret, took an oath to persuade him to do so, in order that the family might visit him in prison. With More’s wife and son-in-law, Margaret tried hard, but Thomas refused. He spent fifteen lonely months imprisoned in the Tower of London – in poor health, isolated from the other prisoners, deprived of his beloved books; not even paper and pen were given to him. Thomas More was convicted of treason, sentenced to death and, on July 6th, 1535, he was beheaded. On mounting the scaffold, Thomas More proclaimed that he was “the king’s good servant but God’s first.” St. Thomas More paid the price for his discipleship by loving God more than his wife, children, nay, even his life. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies).

# 3: “The beauty remains; the pain passes.” French artists Henri Matisse and Auguste Renoir were close friends and frequent companions despite the fact that Renoir was twenty-eight years the senior of Matisse. During the last several years of his life, Renoir was virtually crippled by arthritis; nevertheless, he painted every day, and when his fingers were no longer supple enough to hold the brush correctly, he had his wife, Alice, attach the paintbrush to his hand in order that he might continue his work. Matisse visited him daily. One day, as he watched his older friend wincing in excruciating pain with each colorful stroke, he asked, “Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?” Renoir’s response was immediate, “The beauty remains; the pain passes.” Passion for his art empowered Renoir to paint until the day he died; those who continue to admire the enduring beauty of his smiling portraits, his landscapes, his still life studies of flowers and fruit will find no trace therein of the pain required to create them. Most will agree that the cost was worth it. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez).

Central theme: Today’s readings challenge us to make a total commitment to the will of God, putting God first in our lives.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading instructs us to ask for the gifts of discernment and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, so that we may obey the will of God as disciples. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), instructs those who would be Jesus’ disciples that they must constantly be aware of the brevity and uncertainty of life. The second reading teaches us that detachment and renunciation are necessary for a true disciple of Christ. As a responsible Apostle and model disciple of Christ, Paul had to renounce the service of his new helper, Onesimus, and return him to Philemon, his master. As a new disciple of Christ, Onesimus had to leave Paul, face his owner as a runaway slave and accept the consequences.  Today’s Gospel reminds us to count the cost of being a Christian because the cost is high.  Christian discipleship requires that one “renounce” both earthly possessions and possessions of the heart (i.e., one’s relationships).  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus lays out four conditions for true Christian discipleship: i) renouncing the attachment to family by putting God first, before other relationships and self-interest; ii) severing the attachment to possessions by leading a detached life, willingly sharing our blessings with others; iii) accepting the hard consequences of discipleship which include offering daily sacrificial service to others and even losing one’s life for them. We must also be faithful in our stewardship, faithful in our worship attendance, faithful in our sexuality, honest in our business practices and accurate on our tax returns — and we must show compassion for the less fortunate; iv) calculating the cost involved. Using the two parables of the tower-builder and the king defending his country, Jesus says: think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made.

The first reading, Wisdom 9:13-18 explained:  This selection tells us that the will of God can only be discerned by the help of God’s Wisdom (the Spirit of God). God gives us this Divine Wisdom directly in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and the Spirit empowers and instructs us through Divine Revelation in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Hence, we must prepare our plan of action in Christian discipleship, relying on the power and light of the Holy Spirit. Our decisions as true disciples of Christ must flow from our religious values, what the author of Wisdom calls “things [that] are in Heaven.” This means that we are called to make decisions as disciples of Jesus, not as merely foolish people caught up in the cultural values of our time. (The book of Wisdom was written in Alexandria, Egypt a century before Christ.  It was the work of a pious Jew and was intended to bolster the Faith of his fellow-Jews who were tempted to “assimilate” into the dominant pagan culture). Today’s passage is about deep theological issues, such as the ability of the human mind to grasp the ways of God, and the interaction between body and soul.  God’s mind is so unique that we must constantly, and deliberately, pray for Heavenly wisdom.

The second reading, Philemon 9-10, 12-17 explained: This letter provides another lesson in the detachment and renunciation necessary for Christian discipleship.  The cost of his discipleship had already landed Paul in prison once, probably in Ephesus (ca. AD 52-54). Philemon was a wealthy Colossian and a friend of Paul. Philemon had been converted to the Christian Faith through Paul’s ministry.  Philemon had a slave called Onesimus who had robbed his master and fled to Rome. God’s grace led Onesimus to the prison where Paul was being held, and the Apostle took compassion on him, leading Onesimus also to the Christian Faith. Then Paul sent Onesimus back to his master in Colossae with a letter pleading with the master, not only to spare Onesimus severe punishment, but also to show him sympathy, affection and Christian brotherhood. Paul asked Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother in the Lord, as a spiritual sibling and to welcome him as he would welcome Paul himself or even Christ himself. Paul means that Onesimus should not be marked by a red-hot iron with a F for “fugitive” on his forehead. We hear this appeal in the second reading. As a responsible Apostle and model disciple of Christ, Paul had to renounce the service of his new helper and return him to his master. As a new disciple of Christ, Onesimus had to leave Paul, face his owner as a runaway slave and accept the consequences. Paul challenged Philemon to express his commitment to Christ as a true disciple by treating Onesimus “no longer as a slave but a brother,” thus transforming the relationship between master and slave, bravely facing the contempt and scorn of his social equals and incurring social and economic liability as well.   (The traditional belief is that Onesimus was later made the bishop of Ephesus and suffered martyrdom in Rome.)

Gospel exegesis: The context: Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where he would be crucified. But the crowd thought that he was going to Jerusalem to oust the Romans and to reestablish the old Davidic kingdom of Israel.  Jesus was enormously popular with the crowds as a great healer, brave teacher and miracle worker. Looking at the cheering masses, however, Jesus frankly put before them the strenuous conditions for discipleship.

1) We must renounce family relationships, giving priority to God.  Today’s passage in Luke puzzles a lot of people, because in the Middle East, anyone who deliberately cut ties with family and social network would lose the ordinary means of making a living.   Further, a person’s life and family relationships were a necessity for security and identity, regardless of social position.  Why was Jesus, who had been recommending that his followers love everybody –including their enemies–suddenly announcing that no one could be his disciple unless he hated his own family?  The word hate, as used in this case, “is Semitic exaggeration and may reflect an idiom which means ‘love less than’ (Oxford Bible Commentary). So, it is clear that Jesus’ “hating” one’s family is a Semitic hyperbole or exaggeration, spoken for effect.  Matthew’s Gospel makes it clear. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37-38). This is Semitic hyperbole or exaggeration-for-effect. The word “hate,” in Hebrew, does not mean “detest” but to “put in second place. Jesus is not calling us to hate father and mother but is instead calling us to a commitment above all other commitments, including commitment to family. When Jesus said, “hate your family,” he was talking about spiritual detachment, the ability to put God first, before other relationships and before self-interest. Without such detachment, one does not have the ability truly to follow Jesus. Jesus cannot just be a part of our life but the center.

2) We must bear our crosses: Though “bearing a cross” is often equated with welcoming chronic illness, painful physical conditions, or trying family relationships, it also includes what we do voluntarily, as a consequence of our commitment to Jesus Christ.  Further, it is the spirit in which we freely and deliberately accept and endure the pain, difficulties and even the ridicule involved with these choices, that transforms them into real cross-bearing. We need to be prepared to suffer out of love for Jesus. For the early Christians, however, cross-bearing had a far more literal meaning.  Just as Jesus went to the cross, some of his followers would also taste death for their devotion to the Master.  Only if the disciple is firmly committed to Christ will he be able to spend his life in sacrificial service for others. We observe this in Christian doctors, medical students and pharmacists who refuse to take part in any way in abortions, even if they might suffer professionally; in people who stick up for Christ and his teachings (even when they suffer derision as a result), at school, work or in their families; in those who sacrifice money and time to care for others and for the mission of the Church. “Discipleship not only means to follow the Master with our ‘cross.’ It also means to reveal the crucified Christ to others. In other words, through our struggles and the consequences of Faith, Christ is present, to us and to those who see us.” CCC 618).

3) We must calculate the cost of discipleship: Using the two parables of the tower-builder and the king defending his country, Jesus says: think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made. In the first parable, the builder was not financially able to finish the building. The second parable spoke of a king planning strategy against a belligerent opponent.  Could the king win the battle against an army twice the size of his own?  Or should he sue for peace?  Just as a tower builder needs to have enough in the budget for materials and as a general to win a war needs to have enough well-trained troops to defeat his opponents, so we to be a follower of Christ need to know the commitment it’s going to take. Perhaps these parables also illustrate that discipleship is not a one-time decision and that the commitment involved needs to be an ongoing decision to persevere in the ministries that are integral to following Jesus.  When we first decide to follow Christ, we know simply that there will be a price to pay. Only as life unfolds can we begin to assess the full cost. Jesus warns us to expect significant cost overruns because the cost for him was the cross at Calvary.
4) We need to say good-bye to possessions: The fourth condition for being a disciple of Jesus means not only surrendering material possessions but sometimes one’s very life.  In today’s reading, we hear the phrase, “whoever does not renounce all of his possessions and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Jesus asserted it in the Sermon on the Mount: “No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).  When Jesus says that we must give up all our possessions in order to follow him, he doesn’t mean that we must all hold a giant yard sale and live as mendicants on the streets.  He means that we should lead a detached life, willingly sharing our blessings with others. The four conditions of discipleship as outlined by Jesus indicate a kind of total commitment that every follower of Christ should be prepared to live. The radical demands of Jesus call us to center our lives on the suffering and risen Christ.
5) The paradox of Jesus’ strenuous conditions: Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations (not “make members”).  On the one hand, our text repeats the necessity of putting Jesus first – an extremely demanding condition.  On the other hand, even “street people” are generously invited to the banquet.  The only “demand” is that we come, eat, and enjoy the feast that has been prepared. Do we live in this tension between free grace and costly discipleship?  Is there a difference between believing in Jesus and being a disciple?  Yes!  Just being an active Church member is not enough.    Jesus doesn’t want disciples who just “go along with the crowd.”    He wants committed Christians — those who are aware of the costs of following him — who choose to follow him anyway.  Being Jesus’ disciple has never been convenient.  It is costly — costly in terms of money, time, relationships, and priorities.

6) Cheap grace and costly grace: According Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran theologian, martyred by Hitler, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, Baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus….Cheap grace costs us nothing (in the short term). Costly grace costs us our life, but it is also the source of the only true and complete life.” (The Cost of Discipleship). (http://peterfaur.com/2012/12/18/study-guides-for-dietrich-bonhoeffers-the-cost-of-discipleship#axzz4JI86fUOI) Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price for which the believer is willing to sell everything he/she has. Costly grace is the Gospel which must be lived and preached; it is the gift which must be asked for, the door at which every disciple must knock. Costly grace means following Jesus, aware of and prepared for the pitfalls of discipleship but still willing to meet them and manage them daily with his help. “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing. “(Martin Luther). It is strange to see how the present followers of Martin Luther preach and practice a diluted, cost-free Christianity, assuring eternal salvation to all who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and ask his pardon and forgiveness for their sins – and that is “preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance”!

7) Cafeteria Christians versus committed Christians: Soren Kierkegaard said that there are a lot of parade-ground Christians who wear the uniforms of Christianity, but few who are willing to do battle for Christ and his kingdom. When it comes to doing battle for the Lord, too many church members are just sitting on the premises instead of “standing on the promises of God.” Jesus does not want a large number of “half-way” disciples who are willing to do a “little bit” of prayer, a “little bit” of commitment, a “little bit” of dedication, a “little bit” of love. Jesus wants disciples who are truly committed to prayer, to discipleship and to being ruled by him as their king.  With a few such dedicated disciples, Jesus could change the world.  Today, more than a billion people gather to worship, but many of them are half-hearted Christians. We are tempted to forego the call to faithful stewardship, faithful worship attendance, faithful sexuality, honest business practices, accurate tax returns and compassion for the less fortunate. Ironically enough, Churches with high standards attract people with high standards. Integrity and commitment attract others. On the one hand, Jesus makes it very difficult to be his disciple.  On the other hand, Jesus is making it impossible to be his disciple just using only our own abilities. When we confess, “I can’t,” then we are open for God’s “I can.” With God’s grace everything is possible.

Life messages: 1) We need to practice true Christian discipleship.  In the book Power Surge, Mike Foss lists “six marks of discipleship for a changing Church” which he expects Christians to practice: 1) daily prayer, 2) weekly worship by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, 3) diligent study of the Bible, 4) service in and beyond the parish, 5) spiritual friendships, and 6) giving time, talents, and resources to the Lord’s work.

2) We need to accept the challenge with heroic commitment: Jesus’ challenge of true Christian discipleship can be accepted only if we practice the spirit of detachment and renunciation in our daily lives.  Real discipleship demands true commitment to the duties entrusted to us by life, circumstances, the community, or directly by God Himself, and by loving acts of selfless, humble, sacrificial love offered to all God’s children around us. Let us remember that all this is possible only if we rely on the power of prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Mother Teresa said, “If we have our Lord amid us, with daily Mass and Holy Communion, I fear nothing for the Sisters nor myself; he will look after us. But without him I cannot be. I am helpless” (MFG, p. 26).

JOKE OF THE WEEK:

1) President in search of a true Christian disciple: Abraham Lincoln was debating whom to hire as Indian Commissioner. He called his advisors Ben Wade and Senator Daniel Voorhees for assistance in selecting the right man. “Gentlemen,” said President Lincoln, “I want an honest, decent, caring, moral Christian man, a man frugal and self-sacrificing!”  “Mr. President, I feel certain you won’t find him,” said Voorhees.  “And why not?” asked the President.  “Because he was Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified eighteen hundred years ago,” said the Senator.

2) Christian burial for a non-disciple?  One morning Rev. Desmond went to the front door of his rectory to get his newspaper and found a dead mule on the street.  He quickly called the city health department and asked to have the mule disposed of.  The smart secretary on duty said, “Hey, Reverend Pastor, I always heard that you pastors buried your own dead even if they are not practicing Christian disciples”.  “Yes, we do, “the pastor, replied. “But not in all cases.  In this case, I would like to meet the deceased’s close relatives in the Health Department in person to offer my condolences and to give a special blessing!

3) ഇങ്ങനെ വേണം അക്ഷരമാല പഠിക്കാൻ: കുഞ്ഞുരാജകുമാരന്റെ എബിസിഡി വിഡിയോ, Prince George, ABCD, Viral Video,, Manorama OnlinePrince George of England learning the alphabet using Bible sentences: (Different from A for Apple style): https://youtu.be/JhJ1EDyUbpc

 

Websites of the week:

1) http://www.scotthahn.com/introductory-manuals-and-commentaries.html Biblical resources by Scot Hahn

2) Totally Catholic Link Directory: http://www.catholiclinks.com/classic/links.php

3) Spirit Daily: http://www.spiritdaily.com/

4) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics:  https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

5) Matthew West’s 9 Inspirational Contemporary Christian Songs to Brighten Your Day: http://www.catholicnewbie.com/tag/matthew-west/

19-Additional anecdotes

1) Cheap grace and costly grace: During the era of World War II, the great German Protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), wrote a book entitled The Cost of Discipleship.  “’Cheap grace,’” Bonhoeffer wrote in his book “is the grace we bestow on ourselves…grace without discipleship, while   ‘costly grace’ is the Gospel that must be sought again and again, the gift, which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock…  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”   As a religious scholar in a country where the Nazis were bent on expanding an ideology of national and racial superiority, Dietrich Bonhoeffer struggled inside himself and chose to resist the Nazis as a true disciple of Christ. He joined the underground in the conviction that it was his duty as a Christian to work for Hitler’s defeat.  His convictions inspired many to resist, but this cost them their freedom and lives at the hands of the Gestapo. Bonhoeffer’s theologically rooted opposition to National Socialism first made him a leader, along with Martin Niemoeller and Karl Barth, as an advocate on behalf of the Jews. Indeed, his efforts to help a group of Jews to escape to Switzerland were the cause of his arrest and imprisonment in the spring of 1943.  He was hanged in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945, on the false charge of plotting to assassinate Hitler. Thus, he paid the cost of discipleship with his life and death.

2) The cost paid by great musicians: Someone once said to Paderewski, the great pianist, “Sir, you are a genius.” He replied, “Madam, before I was a genius, I was a drudge.” He continued: “If I missed practice one day, I noticed it; if I missed practice two days, the critics noticed it; if I missed three days, my family noticed it; if I missed four days, my audience noticed it.” It is reported that after one of Fritz Kreisler’s concerts a young woman said to him, “I would give my life to be able to play like that.” He replied, “That’s what I gave.” The door is narrow. Why should we think we can “drift” into the Kingdom of God? The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it. We need to strive because there are forces of evil within us and around us, trying to pull us down.

3) The cost of discipleship for Dr. David Livingston. Livingston was a brilliant scholar. He studied Greek, theology, went to Glasgow University and graduated with a degree in Medicine. He could have been anything he wanted to be: a professor, an author, a doctor. But God had called him to the mission field in the interior of Africa where no white man had ever entered. The sacrifice he made was incredible. While he was out in the bush, preaching the Gospel one day, a huge lion leaped on him, clamped its teeth on his shoulder and crushed it, leaving his left arm totally useless. One of his helpers killed the lion and saved him. He was taken back to Scotland for treatment. Through that ordeal, Livingston was nursed back to health by a woman named, Mary, who became his wife. She went with him to Africa. As the years passed, they had five children. While they were crossing one of those vast plains of Africa, one of their children died. They concluded that it would be safer for his wife and four remaining children to go back to Scotland. Livingston said that decision was the most difficult of his life. They left, and for five years Livingston did not see the faces of his wife and children. The loneliness was unbearable. Finally, when Livingston was able to return home to see his relatives, it was to see them returning from the cemetery after burying his beloved father. Another price had been paid. Many years after his return to Africa he received a letter that caused his heart to leap. The children were now grown, and Mary was coming to Africa. But she had barely arrived when she was struck down by an African fever. Dr. Livingston used every ounce of his medical skill to try to save her, but he could not. He buried his wife under a huge African Baobab tree. After having a short memorial service, he went back to his cottage and wept like a baby. He wrote that day in his diary: “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All; I again dedicate my whole self to Thee. I shall place no value on anything I possess or on anything I do except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ.” Was his sacrifice worth it? Well, consider this. Twenty-five years after his death in 1900, there were ten million Christians in Africa. Today, there are over 300 million. Nothing great is ever done without sacrifice. But any sacrifice for Jesus is always great.

4) Cost paid by famous golf & basketball players: Arnold Palmer, for many years, was one of America’s finest golfers. Certainly, he was our most popular golfer. Wouldn’t it be great to be a “natural” athlete like Arnold Palmer? Except that Arnold Palmer practiced golf eight hours a day, day after day after day. Being a great golfer requires commitment. Some of you who play the game are thinking to yourselves that even being a poor golfer requires commitment! You don’t excel in athletics or anything else unless you are willing to pay the price. Larry Bird won the Most Valuable Player award in the National Basketball League for three years in a row. How did he achieve such excellence? Larry Bird is legendary for his dedication to the game of basketball. An opposing player tells of arriving at Boston Garden with his teammates to play the Boston Celtics several hours before an important game. There was the great Larry Bird standing at the foul line of dark, deserted Boston Garden practicing free throws over and over again. The coach of the opposing team preached a little sermon about dedication to the game using Larry Bird as the prime example. Successful living requires commitment. It requires dedication. That’s true in athletics. It is also true in business. Jesus says in today’s Gospel that it is true in our relationship with God.

5) Cost of being soldiers of Alexander the Great: In his world-conquering march, Alexander the Great approached a highly fortified city and through a messenger demanded to see the king and set out his terms of surrender. The king laughed at him and said, “Why should I surrender to your emperor Alexander? You can’t do us any harm! We can endure any siege.” As the messenger returned Alexander ordered his men to line up in single file and to march towards the cliff within sight of the city walls. The city’s citizens watched with horrified fascination as one by one Alexander officers marched over the edge of that cliff and plunged to their deaths. After several men had obeyed his orders, he commanded them to halt. He then called his troops back to his side and stood silently facing the city. The effect on the citizens and the king was stunning. From spellbound silence they moved to absolute terror. They realized they had no walls thick enough and no defense strong enough to protect themselves against that kind of commitment and that kind of devotion. Spontaneously they rushed through the gates to surrender themselves to Alexander the Great. That is the kind of surrender and sacrifice that Jesus is asking for. One thing you have to say about today’s terrorists is that they are willing to die for what they believe. The tragedy is that terrorists are more willing to pay a price and are more willing to die for a lie than Christians are to live for the truth.

6) Tie for no. 14: 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 our salvation

7) The NCAA cross-country championship: Back in 1994, 128 runners lined up to compete in the NCAA cross-country championship in Riverside, California. Unfortunately, one of the turns on the 10,000-meter course was not well marked. Only five of the 128 runners stayed on the correct path. Mike Delcavo was the first runner to notice the problem. He began waving at the other runners to follow him, but most refused. Can you blame them? One-hundred-and-twenty-three runners took the wrong path, only five took the right one. What did the 123 runners think of Delcavo? He commented later, “They thought it was funny that I went the right way.” (Leadership, Summer 1994, p. 49.) We all like to think that we’re on the right path; what a rude awakening it would be to discover we aren’t, if we take the broad way leading to eternal damnation.

8) Twenty million tons of cement. In 1974, in the wake of the oil boom, the government of Nigeria decided to bring the country at a single leap into line with most developed Western nations. The planners calculated that to build the new roads, airfields, and military buildings which the plan required would call for some 20 million tons of cement. This was duly ordered and shipped by freighters from all over the world, to be unloaded onto the docks at Lagos, Nigeria. Twenty million tons of cement. Unfortunately, the Nigerian planners had not considered the fact that the docks at Lagos were only capable of handling two thousand tons a day. Working every day, it would have taken twenty-seven years to unload the ships that were at one point waiting at sea off Lagos. These contained a third of the world’s supply of cement much of it showing its fine quality by setting solid in the holds of the freighters. Hasty transactions bring painful losses. Poor planning causes disastrous results. Building a tower before counting the cost? Three guesses!

9) “The Road Less Traveled”:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And, sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
……….…………………………………….

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
(Robert Frost)

10) “Beats me too.” A man remarked to a woman sitting to his left at a Super Bowl game that he was surprised that there was an empty seat between them. The woman said, “Oh, that belonged to my husband, but he died.” The man offered his condolences and went on to express amazement that another member of her family of a relative of friend hadn’t wanted to use his seat. “Beats me too,” said the woman, “but they all insisted they needed to go to his funeral!” How’s that for a story about values and commitment?

11) Clenched fists or open hands: African aboriginals have an ingenious way of trapping monkeys. They carve out a small cavity in the bark of a tree just big enough for a monkey to slip his hand in. Then, they fill the cavity with peanuts – or ‘monkey nuts’, as we call them in India – and lie in wait. Soon, curious monkeys come to investigate. They smell the peanuts and sure enough one of them squeezes his hand through the cavity to grab the nuts. But the cavity isn’t big enough for the monkey to pull out his clenched fist. The monkey stupidly refuses to open his clenched fist and let go of the nuts. He’s trapped. How often, like a monkey, I refuse to let go of trifles and lose Life in the bargain. Let us listen to the conditions placed by Jesus in today’s Gospel (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

12) Cost of architectural masterpiece of Antonio Gaudi: Visitors touring the city of Barcelona in Spain are invariably drawn to the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Church. An architectural masterpiece designed by Antonio Gaudi, this neo-Gothic structure has been described as biological surrealism in that it is comprised of human figures, vegetative formations, molten-like cornices and cubistic towers, topped with twisted, mosaic-covered finials. All of these elements are permeated by a logically ordered Marian iconography. However, visitors are also invariably surprised to discover that, since it was commissioned in 1882, only the choir and front of the church’s east transept have been completed. Gaudi’s ornate and unusual architecture proved too costly to build; therefore, behind the church’s impressive façade stands an emptiness that bears silent witness to the lesson taught through the twin parables in today’s Gospel, viz., that those who would become the disciples of Jesus must first appreciate the cost, accept it, and then be willing and prepared to persevere in meeting that cost daily. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez).

13) Cost of discipleship paid by a modern saint: St. Gianna Berretta Molla understood well the cost of discipleship and all its implications. Her canonization on May 16, 2004 was one of the last canonizations celebrated by Pope St. John Paul II.  She is a modern saint, who died on April 28, 1962.  Her husband and children were present for her canonization.  We haven’t heard a whole lot about her in the United States, something in which we priests, and I as your pastor, are remiss.  I intend to remedy this today. Gianna Berretta was a doctor living outside of Milan, Italy.  She had a double residency and practice in pediatrics and obstetrics/ gynecology.  After she finished her residencies, her desire to reach out to the people influenced her to open a clinic in a small town in her native Italy. She was not a wealthy doctor; she never hesitated to give her services free to those who could not afford to pay. A good doctor works long hours and Gianna was no exception. Pregnant mothers felt very secure in her care because they knew no matter what time of night, they needed her, she would be there for them. After becoming a doctor, Gianna met and became engaged to the man of her dreams, Pietro Molla.  They were married on September 24, 1955. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi; in December 1957 of Mariolina; and in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium, she harmonized the demands of mother and wife with those of her continued practice as a doctor, all with the passion that she had for life. In 1961, Gianna became pregnant with the Molla’s fourth child.  In September, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain. She had developed a tumor in her uterus. She was given the choice of having the uterus removed and thus kill the child, or risk surgery that might save the child but kill her.  She was an Ob-Gyn.  She knew the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, but she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The baby’s life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that. A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child.  She repeated to her husband: “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate choose the child – I insist on it. Save the child.” On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you,” Gianna Berretta Molla died. She was 39 years old.

Was Gianna foolish for making the decision to allow her death rather than the death of her child?  Shouldn’t she have considered staying alive for the sake of her other three children, her husband, and even her medical practice? These arguments were presented to her by those whom she had respected, doctors, family members, etc.  But their thinking was the thinking of the world. Gianna knew that she would accomplish nothing in killing a child to keep her own life. The child that was saved, Gianna Emanuela, followed in her mother’s footsteps and is now a medical doctor and consulter to the Saint Gianna Berretta Molla Society. The cost of discipleship seldom makes the demand on us that it made on Gianna Molla, but we are all continually confronted with the choice of standing up for our Faith or joining the world that rejects the Lord.  (Fr. Pellegrino) Homilies.net

14) “We saw your smoke signal.” The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed earnestly to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but no one seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements and in which to store his few possessions. One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried. Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. The weary man asked his rescuers: “How did you know I was here?” They replied: “We saw your smoke signal.” God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. But we fail to see the invisible hand of God. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

15) The real cost of Christian discipleship is meeting daily the demands Jesus makes upon his followers. The Italian freedom fighter Garibaldi offered his men only hunger and death to free Italy. Winston Churchill told the English people that he had nothing to offer them but “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” in their fight against the enemies of England. Jesus demands that his followers carry a cross– the sign of death.

Andrew died on a cross

Simon was crucified

Bartholomew was flayed alive

James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded

The other James (son of Alphaeus) was beaten to death

Thomas was run through with a lance

Matthias was stoned and then beheaded

Matthew was slain by the sword

Peter was crucified upside down

Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows

Philip was hanged

The demands that Jesus makes upon those who would follow him are extreme. Christianity is not a Sunday morning religion. It is a hungering after God, to the point of death if need be. It shakes our foundations, topples our priorities, pits us against friend and family, and makes us strangers in this world…

16) Calculate the cost before a war: Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Emperor, decided to campaign against Russia, in 1812. Napoleon was pushing on with preparations for war on a colossal scale. By the summer of 1812 he had about 750,000 men under arms of whom 450,000 were destined for the actual invasion. On 28 May this army of armies set out towards East. Immense stores were collected. Two million pairs of boots were held in reserve. The baggage was hauled by18,000 heavy draft horses, the siege-guns and pontoons by 10,000 oxen. A million great coats had been bought. The army passed into Russia unopposed. As Napoleon reached Moscow, he had understood the mistake he had made. The marshals too were reluctant to march northwards. With the first fall of snow the story of the march became an epic of human misery; no food, no shelter, no fuel. Icy gales froze them and killed scores every night. History testifies that it was one of the great errors of Napoleon. Out of 450000 who had crossed into Russia only 20,000 marched back. If Napoleon had corrected himself 430000 men who had crossed into Russia would not have lost their lives or pushed into misery. Human history gives evidence that such human errors have often proved fatal. The history of salvation too is a sum total of such errors, often willful, that have estranged man from God, and God’s interventions to make man aware of his own mistakes and of God’s offer of mercy. (Fr. Bobby Jose) .

17) Seeing the white rabbit and chasing it: One day, a young disciple of Christ who wanted to become everything that God had in mind for him visited the home of an elderly Christian seeking his advice. He had heard that this old man had never lost his love for Christ in all the years he had known the Savior.

The old man smiled and replied, “Let me tell you a story: One day I was sitting here quietly in the sun with my dog. Suddenly a large white rabbit ran across in front of us. Well, my dog jumped up, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with a passion. Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as that pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up stony embankments and through thickets and thorns! Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase. Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit. In that story, young man, is the answer to your question.” The young man sat in confused silence. Finally, he asked, “I don’t understand. What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for God?” “You fail to understand,” answered the older man, “because you failed to ask the obvious question— ‘Why didn’t the other dogs continue on the chase?’ And, the answer to that question is that they were only joining the excitement of the group. They had not seen the rabbit. Unless you have actually seen the rabbit, the chase is just too difficult. You will lack the passion and determination necessary to keep up the chase.” And this brings us to the pertinent topic of this particular discourse: Have you seen the Lord? Have you really seen Him? Do you realize and accept that He is carrying a cross? Do you understand what it means to be a Christian? In order to follow after Him, the first prerequisite is that we actually see Him and understand what it means to be called to Christian discipleship. (Rev. Byron Perrine).

18) The beggar boy or the beggar girl? A beggar boy had staked himself on a bridge in Rome w/ an old violin on which he played pitifully. The only people who gave money were those who felt sorry for him. One day a man came by who after listening asked the boy if he could hold the violin. Reluctantly, the boy surrendered his instrument. After the stranger tuned it, he began to play a beautiful melody. Suddenly, a crowd gathered to listen and began dropping money into the case As the crowd grew, the money increased. When the man finished, he handed the boy his violin, along w/ the money in the case. Who was the stranger? It was the great Paganini, the renowned Italian violinist! Around the same time, a little beggar girl knocked on the door of Adelina Patti, the renowned Italian-Spanish opera singer looking for a handout. The great singer gave her no money but invited her momentarily into her home and asked her to sing. Puzzled, the girl fulfilled her request and sang. Patti detected a tiny spark of musical promise in the girl and invited her to return the following day where she began to give the girl daily lessons. The great opera diva trained the girl for seven years – when finally, she introduced her to the world in concert. For the rest of her life, the female urchin-turned-singer, trained by Adelina Patti, earned a large salary and blessed multitudes of people. Of these stories – which account do you think most portrays Jesus concept of making disciples? Then why is it that we tend to default to the first method? Chinese Proverb: – Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Discipling is teaching a man to follow Jesus so he can feed on God for himself. It’s leading a man to take responsibility for himself and for others. The call of every Christian is to become broken bread and poured out wine to others until they can feed on God for themselves. (Rev. Joseph Rogers).

19) The cost of Christian discipleship: Two years ago in China, I met many pastors and church leaders who had suffered terribly during the years of the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao and his fanatical following of students. Their churches had been shut down, and they had been sent to years of harsh living away from home and family for what was called re-education on the factory floor or in the rice paddies of rural villages. Some watched family members sent off to prison, and many endure chronic health problems today resulting from the brutal treatment they received in those awful years. All had productive years of ministry stolen from them. Yet, none of the people I visited spoke of those times with bitterness or resentment. None of them held up their personal experience as cause for special commendation. It was simply the cost they had to bear in their time and place for being a disciple of Jesus. One old pastor put it well: “God used those years in the fields to help us learn how to be a church of the poor. Before that, we had been a church of the educated, of the intellectuals. Now we know how to be a church for the poor.” His simple eloquence reminded me of Joseph, after his father’s death, meeting the brothers who had tried to kill him. “You meant it for evil,” he told them, “but God meant it for good that an entire people might live.” (Rev. John Thomas). L/19

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 45) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit this website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visithttp://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under CBCI  or under Fr. Tony or in the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text.

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.