Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 8, 2019
Today, in Mercy, the Church links three readings which, at first glance, seem unrelated.
- Our first reading from Wisdom reminds us of God’s infinite wisdom, incomprehensible to our human minds.
- Paul, in his letter to Philemon, begs for the loving inclusion of Onesimus, an enslaved person, into the Colossian community.
- In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the harsh pronouncement:
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.
How might we interpret these disparate passages to find a message of wholeness for our prayer?
Let’s start with Jesus. In no uncertain terms, he challenges his disciples to move out of their small worlds into God’s big world. That Godly world is not defined by family, nor by any condition other than our common Creaturehood in God … not by:
Jesus says the sacred community is defined only by shared and irrevocable commitment to the Gospel of love and mercy.
Paul knows and loves Onesimus, the slave, as a brother in this community. In his letter, Paul encourages Philemon to do the same.
Sometimes as human beings, filled with all kinds of insecurities, we tend to build enclaves that make us feel safe. We like to be with “our kind”. We invent borders to filter out those whose differences we don’t understand. We allow fear to grow out of that lack of understanding. Within the enclosure of our self-protectionism, we eventually forget that we are all one, equal, precious, beautiful and beloved by God.
Such toxic attitudes are the soil for slavery, war, ethnic cleansing, racial supremacy, human trafficking, destructive nationalism, and all the other sacrileges committed by humans against the human family.
Wisdom reminds us that only God can open the tight circle of our fears, judgments and isolations – only God whose infinite love encompasses all. Jesus tells us that we find that love only by lifting up the cross and following him.
Wisdom tells us to put it in God’s hands, and to respond to God’s challenge in the preaching of Jesus Christ.
Who can know your way of thinking, O God
… except you give us wisdom
and send your Holy Spirit from on high
thus stretching the hearts of those on earth
Today I pray, may God do this for me, and for all our tight, convoluted and troubled world.
Music: Who Has Known (an Advent hymn, but perfect I think for today’s readings)