Sunday readings in brief 23 C
Wis 9:13-18; Ps 89(90); Philemon 9-10,121-17; Lk 14: 25-33
Carrying the Cross
Dear friends, today is the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary time. Today is also the “Good Samaritan” Sunday when we remember our suffering neighbors and help them. The theme for this particular Sunday this year is “We implore you in the name of Christ, to be reconciled by God”. The focus this year is “Caring for nature”. In his Pastoral letter “Laudato Si” (Glory to you Oh Lord), Pope Francis initiated a conversation about the safety of our planet.
As we all can experience, our planet earth has been changing rapidly and the climatic patterns are becoming worse and worse. Those who are keen to observe will agree that most of this negative change is a consequence of human harmful activities on the planet such as cutting down trees, air pollution, and selfish exploration of natural resources among others. it is also true that humans are the only living beings that can be blamed for this destruction of the environment. Other animals only live by their instincts and do not plan and execute destructive activities like men and women do.
Therefore during this week, each and everyone is invited to introspect and find out in which way he or she is contributing to the destruction of the planet. One may not be mining cobalt that is used to manufacture mobile phones in Congo but he or she may be changing mobile phones every month. One may not be cutting trees but he or she may be using charcoal or paper. One may not be manufacturing plastic bags but he or she may be trading or buying them, etc.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is talking about ‘Carrying of the Cross”. “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14: 25-27). In our daily conversation, this statement by Jesus has been utilized wrongly to mean carrying one’s burden alone without the help of anyone or taking one’s responsibility. This is because of the wrong understanding of the meaning of the cross. The cross is the sign and symbol of our salvation. Jesus literary carried the wooden cross that crucified him but symbolically he carried all our sins henceforth saving us from eternal death.
When Jesus talks about carrying individual crosses to be his disciples, he means that in order to benefit from the salvation he died for, one must make a personal effort to follow him. No one can follow Jesus for another person hence, “carrying of one’s cross”. Being a follower of Jesus is a radical decision that is personal and individual. Though many inherit faith from their parents and the community they live in, when we mature we all have to make a deliberate choice to be true followers of Christ.
Following Jesus involves imbibing his teachings and values which may be contrary to the world. This involves breaking ties with everything and everyone contrary to Christian values including one’s family members. It means even going contrary to one’s desires that contradict the gospel values such as greed, selfishness, hatred, corruption, etc.
Being a follower of Christ sets us free and we are no longer slaves to the world or to anyone. In the Second reading, we hear how St. Paul is sending Onesmo back to his master Philemon not as a slave but as a brother in faith. Onesmo was Philemon’s slave who had run away and followed Paul. He remained with Paul when he was imprisoned at Ephesus and was converted to Christianity. Philemon was an elder in Colossae. Paul is appealing to Philemon, who was also a convert to Christianity, to receive Onesmo back not any longer as a slave but as the brother in Christ that he had become. Faith is thicker than any blood ties or any other human relationship. Faith makes us brothers and sisters of one Father and we are called to treat as such all who are born again by baptism.
Dear friends, as we reflect today on our contribution either towards the destruction of our plane or its restoration, we should not forget as well that treating others like brothers or sisters of one father is also part of caring for the environment.
Have a blessed Sunday
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD (see also svdkentan.com)