What Saves the World
In his homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Father Hanly helps us understand what is needed to save the world.
Readings for Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
- First Reading: Wisdom 9:13-18
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17
- Second Reading: Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17
- Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
Today’s reading is from the Gospel according to Luke. And it opens with a bit of a shock.
Great crowds were travelling with Jesus on his final journey to the city of Jerusalem. It would be his third and last journey to the sacred city.
It must have been something of a shock when Jesus, drawing the vast crowd to himself, turned to his disciples and to the crowd and said:
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.
Very strong language and, of course, many helpful scholars even today continue to try to tone the meaning of his words down, so as to cushion the shock.
Yet something bothers me about taking a negative word or idea and cleaning it up to make it sound more acceptable and less threatening, so that everybody can go home feeling happier.
Jesus however was never shy about “speaking the truth in love,” in the words of St Paul, and he never stooped to watering down his meaning.
Perhaps if we look at the context in which these words were spoken, we would understand better the seriousness of their meaning.
Jesus was now on his way to Jerusalem, on his way to total rejection and incredible suffering. And on his way to be cursed by the mobs, abandoned by his friends, to die on the cross of Calvary.
All this would be his fate as he walks with his disciples for the last time through the streets of Jerusalem, preaching and teaching in the temple, and a final farewell at the Last Supper.
And all that time he knew the way that he would walk with his disciples, who didn’t have a clue about what awaited them at their journey’s end.
Whenever he tried to tell them what suffering lay ahead, they paid little attention.
They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe that anything serious would happen to Jesus, their Lord and Master, their Messiah King. God would protect him from all harm.
And when the holocaust came, they all ran away, save one who stayed to care for Mother Mary.
Yes, Jesus came to save the world and he would save it, but only through pain and sorrow, rejection on the edges of despair, and faith that he would die on the cross but rise from the dead.
Yet his disciples were always looking for something else. They were waiting for miracles, fire from the sky, victory over their enemies, and pots of gold and silver for their friends. And Jesus would be their saviour, Saviour of the World.
But Jesus knew that what saves the world is not the gold or silver. Only love can save the world, sacrificial love.
And we shall save the world with Jesus, Our Lord, who moves among us now, and calls us to his side, to walk with him.
We know it’s not a call to “a rose garden” nor to “a happy dance”, but rather the commitment that we, and we alone, in our own hearts must make.
And you, Jesus, are here beside us, for you are with us, as you promised, all days, even to the end of the world.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.