Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.
Gospel Cycle Cycle C
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
We are invited this week to have strong foundations for our faith, to live in wisdom and to recognize the hand of God in all that happens to us.
The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, teaches us to have patience and not to think that we immediately understand the ways of the Lord. This is such good advice. Today, many people don’t even believe in God while others seem to believe that they are His spokesperson and interpret His word according to their own pleasure.
The second reading, from the letter to Philemon, indicates that even difficult situations, such as slavery, can be lived in the Lord. That is not a justification for slavery. It is a simple acceptance that no matter what happens, we can find the presence of God in every situation. People who have spent long years imprisoned are often an incredible witness to this.
The Gospel today, from Saint Luke, speaks about the commitment of discipleship. Jesus is totally clear: to follow Him will cost us everything even as it gives us everything. We must be willing to give up all in order to walk with the Lord. Jesus never asks us to give up what is bad for us. He does ask us to give up some good things for the sake of the Kingdom. That makes people unhappy today. We want to think that whatever is good is allowed for me. Jesus is clear that such is not the case. Jesus can ask us to leave behind our families, our wealth, our houses, etc. It is all for the sake of the Kingdom.
The challenge from these readings is this: Do I have wisdom to recognize what the Lord is asking of me here and now? Do I have the inner courage to follow the Lord, no matter what He asks of me? Am I willing to see every aspect of my life, here and now, in the light of God’s love for me?
My sisters and brothers, do we want to follow the Lord? Or are we just looking for a way to make sure that we don’t end up in hell? Or are we following the Lord for other reasons. There is only one reason to follow Jesus: we have come to know His love, even if it is ever so little, at work in our lives. We follow Him because we have come to believe in Him in some way. May we follow Him with joy and grow in our capacity to give our whole life over to Him.
I think St. Josemaría Escrivá showed how “to live in wisdom and to recognize the hand of God in all that happens to us” when he prayed: “May the most just and most lovable will of God be done, be fulfilled, be praised, and eternally exalted above all things. Amen, Amen.”