Sunday, September 04, 2016

23st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 2016

May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts

Today’s Gospel speaks truthfully, but also starkly, about the cost of authentic discipleship and about the cost of love.

It reminds us us so clearly that there is a big difference between being a follower of Jesus Christ and a Disciple of Jesus.

I’m sure none of us are surprised that Mother Teresa was canonized a saint today in St. Peter's Square by Pope Francis. I mean it’s Mother Teresa

We all know that Mother dedicated her life to caring for the poorest of the poor.

Her witness was so powerful that it inspired a whole community of women to desire be like her.

Her ministry and her love for the poor is recognized all over the world by both believers and nonbelievers.

So none of are surprised that Mother has been declared a saint and that all of us are encouraged to imitate her virtuous life.

What may come as a surprise is that despite her smiles and gentle faithful love of the poor, for most of her public life Mother Teresa endured what the saints have called a dark night of the soul.

Only when her letters were published did the world get a glimpse of the struggle and pain and doubt she carried and many of the saints have carried In one of her letters Saint Teresa of Calcutta wrote

“I am told God lives in me, and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

She also wrote

“In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God — of God not existing.”

Only her spiritual directors knew of mother's heavy burden.

Even her closest sisters never saw an inkling of the doubt and loneliness that mother carried.  

She never wanted her loneliness to become the loneliness of others and her doubt become the doubt of others.

This pain, this darkness, this loneliness and doubt lasted until her death in 1997 but it was a heavy cross but she was resolved to carry.

We heard in the Gospel today Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

We don’t know why God asked Mother and many saints to carry the cross of doubt and loneliness and darkness, we don’t know why God was so resolute in hiding his face and love from her soul, but with all the pain and doubt that she was given Mother Teresa like Jesus she carried the cross till the end

She did not lament, did not give up, she did not grow bitter or resentful, up but rather she remained faithful to God’s call continued to inspire and give hope.

Mother Teresa was more than a follower of Jesus she was a disciple of Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran Pastor during the rise of the Nazis in Germany. From the very beginning of their reign of terror until he was executed 3 months before the end of the war.

He resisted Nazis and Hitler in a very public way.

Over and over again his friends and church leaders and even some Nazis themselves begged him to escape and begged him to quiet his public dissent yet he refused.

A prison Guard was even willing to help him escape from prison but he refused.

In his book the Cost of Discipleship he wrote

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

He also wrote...
“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet, they always go back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.”

Even though his family, his fiancee his closest friends everyone dear to him begged him Pastor Bonhoeffer refused to flee Germany, and refused be silent He wrote.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Remember what we heard in the Gospel.
“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.

The word “hate” in that sentence is jarring. And when I was hiking this Friday I spoke about it with a scripture scholar

He explained that Jesus was not asking us to wish harm on our families and our loved ones rather, in the context Jesus was saying that our first love must be God. To the consternation of many that’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer did.

Pastor Bonhoeffer was not just a follower of Christ.he was a true disciple who carried his cross right to the gallows of a nazi prison.

Think about it just a minute.
The best way for me to be a good priest for you is to be a holy priest to love God first and then be inspired by God to love you.

The best way for a Mom and Dad to be great parents to their children is to be holy parents.

If you want to be worthy of your wife or your husband
You have to love God first and then love your spouse like God loves them.

I was hesitant to share the examples of Mother Teresa and Dietrich Bonhoeffer with you lest you think that discipleship is out of reach for a normal person.

I assure you all of us can be disciples.
I run into true disciples all the time.

I know a tiny little skinny mom who walks into abandoned buildings in the worst parts of Hartford to find her Son who has been a heroin addict for 10 years.

He has lied to her, stolen from her, and yelled at her and even threatened her yet she can look a person right in the eye and say.

He is my Son and I am his mother and I will always love him.

She is a disciple

There is the 84 year old man who came into the office the other day. The 86 year old love of his life was with him she has faded into the haze of alzheimer's yet he cares for her and speaks with her with such tender love. He is a disciple.

There are the many many people I meet who carry the cross of illness without resentment or bitterness.

They go from doctor to doctor and from test to test.
You never hear a word of complaint from their mouths
They are true disciples

There is the Dad who gave up the promotion of his dreams and the fast track in their company  because he know that to say yes meant less time for his family and especially his son who was a little high maintenance at the moment.

The list of modern day true disciples goes on and on and on.

Discipleship true discipleship heroic discipleship is not out of our reach we have everything we need.

And so good people the Gospel  today is calling us to ask ourselves are we simply followers of Jersus Christ or are we disciples.


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