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Exploring the Word (Archive)

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

4 September 2022
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Gospel

Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

(Luke 14:25–33) 

Did you know? 

Points of interest and Catholic lore 
  • The use of the term hate in this text should not be taken to mean hatred as such but rather should be understood as pointing to things that may hinder the single-mindedness needed to take up the call to discipleship.
  • The Greek word ekklesia, used for the Church, means being called out from or apart from others. This understanding is suggested by Jesus’ words in this text.
  • A recurrent theme in Luke’s Gospel is that obsessive attachment to money or material wealth is a hindrance to a full and complete relationship with God. It distracts people from what is really important in life.

Exploring the Word 

To be a disciple of Jesus involves radical choices! One must be single-minded in one’s commitment to Christ and not put anything else in a place of greater importance. The use of the word hate is difficult in this passage. Is Jesus really calling his disciples to ‘hate’ those who love us? Surely we come to know something of the love of God through human love. The problem may lie in the Semitic languages, which lack some of the subtlety of modern idiom. In Hebrew, ‘to hate’ is the opposite of ‘to prefer’. What Jesus is really saying is that we must prefer to seek God rather than to seek earthly love or relationship. It is our relationship with God that is of utmost value. Discipleship comes at a cost, and the cost is the cross! We must be prepared to go the whole way and not leave the task half done. Just as Jesus responded totally to the call of the Father, we too must give our total response to the call to follow him.

  • How might putting Christ first change your relationships with others?
  • Will choosing to follow Jesus cause difficulties in your relationship with family and friends? How will you deal with this?

Making connections 

Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer 
  • What has your decision to follow Jesus cost you?
  • Are there times when you feel that you may be unable to ‘finish the work’? What is hindering your progress on your journey?
  • How well do you plan ahead for your life in eternity? 
  • Are there ‘crosses’ that you carry?
  • Have you ever made a great personal sacrifice for another, or do you know of someone who has? Tell the story. There are many people who ‘carry their cross’ daily. You may like to explore some stories of the burdens that people carry. How do they cope? In what ways do you find this inspirational?
  • Do something that ‘costs’ you this week. Identify someone who has a cross to carry and try to assist them, even in a small way, to shoulder that burden.
  • Use today’s gospel acclamation as your prayer this week:
    Let your face shine on your servant,
    and teach me your laws.

Sharing the tradition 

A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ 

‘In the same way, unless you give up all your possessions you cannot be my disciple.’ Perhaps these words of Jesus are best understood as a readiness to renounce worldly wealth if that becomes a hindrance to following his way. It implies the need for an attitude of detachment from the things of this world. There is a strong tradition of complete renunciation of personal belongings among those taking special vows to religious life within the Church, but each believer is invited to ponder the meaning of Christ’s words and our response to them.

The Church teaches that earth and its riches belong to all people. No one has an intrinsic right to more of earth’s goods than another. At the same time, to guarantee personal freedom and dignity and to provide for needs, each person has a right to own private property. We must manage the inherent tension between meeting our own material needs and the needs of all other people on earth. Our attitude to our own property must be governed by moderation, concern for justice and a sense of solidarity with those who have less. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§2426–2463.)

  • How difficult is it for you to control the desire to ‘have’ more rather than to ‘be’ more?
  • What possessions mean the most to you? Why?

Symbols and images 

The cross is the central symbol for all Christians. It was an instrument of torture and ignominious death for the Romans. Despite its association with shame and disgrace, the cross remains the great symbol of hope and vindication for followers of Jesus. It was through his death on a cross that Jesus triumphed over death itself.

Living the Word 

Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment 
  • What programs does your community embrace that allow us to share our resources with those in need? You could discuss church agencies like Caritas or St Vincent de Paul and identify ways that catechumens can support their work.
  • Use a cross as the focus for prayer. Pray for each other as you come to understand the call to discipleship. Use the prayer of exorcism in the RCIA at §94E. A suitable song could be ‘The Summons’ (GA 502).
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