Cycle C Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

How smart and wise do you think you are?  Academic degrees are not the primary indication of being smart, and years of life are not the primary indication of wisdom.
In the first reading we are reminded that no matter how smart and wise we may think we may be, we are far below the knowledge and wisdom of God. The capacity to learn things is not inherent, but a gift from God, who makes all of our technology and use of the resources provided by him possible. I remember hearing a story about a scientist arguing with God, that he (the scientist) could create life too.  God said to show him.  The scientist stooped and gathered some dirt to make his creation.  God stopped him and said, “Wait, I made that.  Get your own!”  I also remember speaking with a surgeon.  He admitted that he can remove bad parts of the body and put things back together, but that was only facilitating the healing process.  Only God can heal the body.

In the second reading, I have heard of some who use this story to say slavery is supported and acceptable according to the bible.  Those who use this argument are missing the point of the message.  Paul is not asking Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a slave, but as a brother.  He is challenging Philemon to open his heart to see all as brothers and sisters, not as property to be bought and sold.  How do we treat our neighbors?  I have heard that there are those who treat hired help as though they are less human.  Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae isn’t talking primarily about birth control or abortion.  He is talking about the value of human life.  He is reminding us of the choice that human life either has value or no value.  Anything in between is purely arbitrary.  He lived during a time when Germany stated in statutes that those with Jewish heritage were not persons.  In our own day, there are those who treat others as though they are less than human.  Humans are treated as objects for my own gratification or discarded because they interrupt my personal desires for “happiness”.

In the Gospel Jesus is not telling us to hate our relatives, families and friends.  Nor is he telling us that possessions are evil.  Jesus is reminding us of our priorities.  What is most important?  Are we willing to stab a co-worker in the back to obtain a promotion? Are we willing to cheat and steal to obtain a goal we desire?  Are we strong enough to say I will not behave or accept certain behaviors to get ahead.  Are we so concerned about our possessions that we don’t care about the quality of life those who made the possessions?  Were they enslaved or in forced labor?  How many people call themselves disciples of Jesus but are unwilling to accept the burden that goes with such?  Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t a walk in the park!  Jesus says we need to carry our cross, he doesn’t say to have our servants carry it for us!  Do we embrace our faith and our cross?  How many will refuse because it isn’t politically correct or would hinder our advancement?

Author: yuengerwv

Retired Catholic Priest

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