Homily for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (3 & 4/9/22)

posted 5 Sept 2022, 02:10 by Parish Office

Following the Lord is not a decision to be taken lightly. It costs, and sometimes, quite a lot. We have to be prepared to carry our cross, and not just give up after a few metres just because it’s beginning to feel heavy. God has to be put in first place, before everyone and everything else. He is our “number one”, not our father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters or our own life.

Think of planning a building. Pugin was a great architect of churches in many ways, and he also designed the decoration for the Houses of Parliament. But unfortunately, the old St Gregory’s, in Longton, which he designed, had to be demolished, because the ground was collapsing underneath. Someone told me how the floor tiles were coming loose, and you could hear sounds underneath the church. So a beautiful church, similar in many ways to this one, had to be demolished, and a more modern church took its place. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart, Hanley, still stands. But what happened in our case was that all the money raised was insufficient, and was spent making the ground safe, so it was donations from America that funded everything you see above ground. Just imagine if, instead, they had decided that they would do things on the cheap. Perhaps as an extreme example, they could have decided not to bother with foundations, or even with bricks. Just put up a few tents, and leave it at that, and keep all the spare money in the bank. Job done. It sounds quite ridiculous. But sometimes, people do try to do the same with religion. They give God something that doesn’t cost them much at all – I’m not talking about money, but the offering of their lives. They live their lives, and let God have the loose change, as it were. But does Christ recognise them as His disciples? He says to us: “none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions”, and the way this applies to us is not that we need to give up everything we own, but we need to put our whole lives in the Lord’s hands: “Do with me, Lord, whatever you choose”. If God says to sell up everything and go and be a missionary in a foreign land, then so be it. But if He says to stay here and bear witness to Him by my life, then so be it as well. We also need to give over to him anything that possess us and restricts our freedom, even addictions such as alcohol or gambling.

We also need to give over to God our pride. The first reading talks about the importance of humility before God:

“What man can know the intentions of God?

Who can divine the will of the Lord? …

It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth …

who, then, can discover what is in the heavens?”

We need God’s revelation. There are those who want to work things out for themselves, but it does save a lot of reasoning and arguing to be just given the answer.

In the second reading, St Paul writes about someone called Onesimus, who has something of an interesting history. Onesimus was a slave who had robbed his master and fled. But after coming into contact with St Paul he was baptised and became a Christian. No doubt St Paul impressed upon him the need to turn his life around. Onesimus was someone who had seen the demands of the Gospel, but also the new life offered to Him in Christ, and now St Paul vouches for him to his former master. Christ makes the demand of a radical change of life, and the blessings are much greater than the initial sacrifice.

So there we have it. We are called to give everything over to God, to be humble, to be aware of what we are signing up to, and not to think that little will be demanded of us. But the rewards are out of this world.