Homily - 23rd Sunday OT Year C - Hate

Homily (Sermon) - Hate

The Readings for the twenty third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 9:13-18
Psalm 89
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

This isn't an easy Sunday to preach. The gospel we have today is not easy, it’s not nice, it’s not simple, it’s not comfortable.

It is a startling message that should make you sit up and listen. It’s not what you expect to hear in church. It’s not what you expect to be told by Christ. It’s not how you live your life today.

What was the first thought that went through your mind when I read:
“If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, yes even his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.”
For me it was, “How am I going to preach on that!” but followed quickly by “Weren't we told to love one another.” It’s difficult to reconcile the two statements. Love and hate seem so far apart, and our faith is built on love. “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”

But as with so much of the bible you can’t just take one sentence by itself. You have to read what comes before and what comes after. It helps to know a little about the time and place when these words were said. It helps to know a little history and the full story of salvation.

The great crowds that were accompanying Jesus were following Him to Jerusalem. They thought he was King David’s heir, sent to save them. They were expecting him, to retake the land of Israel from the Romans, they were not expecting him to be arrested, judged and crucified.

They wanted to follow a victorious king. Christ was telling them that victory would cost Him His life and to follow Him could cost them theirs.
He tried to explain this in two stories. The first is about building a tower without enough funds to finish it. The message here is, if I start this, will I finish it. Have I got what it takes to do what needs to be done.

The second story about the small army facing the big army, and the question is, what am I prepared to sacrifice? What will I lose if I go on, am I prepared to lose everything?

Everything that is, apart from God’s love, that is impossible to lose.

So we have moved on from hating your family and yourself, to being prepared to give them up to follow Christ. That is still not an easy message to hear, and it’s still a difficult message for me to preach about too. I have no intention of leaving my wife or turning my back on my family. But I do still want to follow Jesus. What do I do now? Where do I look?

Let us start with our first reading and our psalm. In poetic language they describe our mortal lives, our bodies of clay, our return to dust.

We heard in our psalm, “Make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

We are immortal souls trapped for a time in mortal bodies, mortal bodies that restrict our ability to understand the infinite. It’s the mud and clay that mean nothing; it’s eternity with your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and God that means everything.

Paul’s letter to Philemon adds to our understanding of sacrifice, of mortal and immortal. Paul sends a slave, Onesimus back to his master Philemon. Paul describes this as giving up part of himself, which is his sacrifice. He implores Philemon to make a sacrifice as well, to give up his property, his ownership of a slave. He opens Philemon’s eyes to the eternal, to the soul of Onesimus, to the brother who could be eternally with him, not the mortal body of clay, the body of the slave.

The message for us today is difficult; there is no getting away from that. Following Christ is not about having and easy and comfortable life in this world, it’s about recognising the glimpses of something eternal when we see them, and when you recognise the eternal in your father, mother, wife, children, brother, sisters and even yourself, I am sure you will turn to Christ and follow Him, because how else are we going to stay with them and find our way into eternity.

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