23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Psalm’s response (for this coming Sunday) stirs something deep within me: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.” As I look back over my life, I can say “This is true.” When I was younger, I didn’t feel that as intensely as I do now in my 60’s. I read somewhere that as we age, one’s predominate “prayer emotion” becomes gratitude for God’s presence and blessings….and I can whole-heartedly agree.

If that be the case, then why do I feel so threatened by Sunday’s Gospel? Given my awareness of God’s presence and blessings, and my faith that they will continue until the day I die, then why does it scare me when Jesus speaks about giving up everything from family to possessions so as to become his follower?

I think there’s a number of reasons…here I’m kinda thinking aloud, so to speak. First of all, family and possessions can become a great distraction in our prayer. For example, I find myself thinking a lot about my parents. They’re getting to the point where they have to think about moving, but we sibs are powerless to do anything till they assent. This stirs up feelings of frustration…which prevent effective attention to the Lord in prayer. So the solution is to “hate” my parents….to pray for them yes, but not to let them dominate all my thoughts and feelings during that time of prayer. Feelings of frustration can overpower feelings of gratitude…that’s just the way we humans are wired. Or thinking about getting a new tool when I should be praying …yeezow…how often has that happened!!

Another reason for the fear that rises when Jesus speaks about giving up things is because the fear points directly to areas in my life that need conversion. I’m comfortable with my ideas and convictions, and habits…some have been around for years!!! I’m also comfortable in my cultural support…I tend to read things and choose media and stick with friends who reinforce my point of view about how the world should be. Well, are those ideas and convictions and cultural support compatible with the Gospel? In some cases, no. But I’m loathe to give them up.

Jesus is inviting us to consider carefully what it will take to fully give him our hearts. Imagine someone addicted to cocaine who said she wanted to quit, but didn’t get rid of her stash or break off ties with her user friends. Imagine a fellow wanting to confront his addiction to compulsive sexual liaisons, but doesn’t take the step of blocking his access to social networking sites. We’d agree with Jesus: They aren’t equipping themselves for what they need to do.

If Jesus were speaking today, he might rephrase Sunday’s Gospel like this: “I’m asking you to grow in the freedom it takes to follow me with all your heart. Disassociate yourself from habits, stances, positions, parties, identities which are foreign to the spirit of generosity, self-sacrifice and love for others the way I love you. It will involve carrying a cross, but for everything you surrender, I will repay with more than you can ask or imagine.”

Much love…..let’s pray for each other’s conversion!

Herb Yost, CSC

Fr Herb, C.S.C.

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