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Friday, 02 September 2022 19:44

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 2022

Fr Elmer Ibarra 150 BestFor those, like me, who have ever played the game “Pokemon Go”, you might be able to relate with me. As far as I understand the game, you capture as many Pokemon monsters as you can. These monsters come with certain skills and powers. Then if you have a monster that you think is powerful, you go to a Pokemon gym and challenge the monsters there and if your monster is powerful enough to defeat the resident monster of the gym, you take over the gym. So, what is important is you plan and see if you have enough powerful monsters before challenging a gym.

The gospel for today presents similar and practical advice about following Jesus. A person who wants to build a tower has to calculate first the costs of building one and whether they have enough resources to build a tower, otherwise if he starts building one and isn’t able to complete it, then people will laugh at him because he started a project that he couldn’t finish.

cross on blurry sunset backgroundThe same is true with the second story. The king must be able to send spies and scouts to see if the other king has a bigger or smaller army than his and must decide whether to wage war with the other king or offer peace settlements.

This part of the gospel also talks to us in this present day. From the moment of our baptism, we have made this commitment to follow the Lord. Unfortunately, for many Catholics, Catholicism is just all about being baptised, attending a Catholic school, perhaps receiving First Communion because it is required by the school and getting Confirmed just weeks before getting married, but other than that nothing really else until on their death-bed they ask for the Last Rites before passing away.

If one wants to follow Jesus carefully, we should follow Jesus on his terms and not on our terms. It’s not about going to Mass wherever we want but it is going to Mass every Sunday. It’s not about being generous when we feel like it, but being generous because somebody needs help. It’s not about praying to God because we need something from Him but praying to him because God wants to talk to us.

This brings us to the first part and probably the harsher part of today’s gospel. For us, it sounds harsh that Jesus demanded us to “hate” our mother, father, wife, husband, children, brother, sisters and even our own lives to become his disciples. We should realise that when this gospel was written, there were some families that became divided because of religion. During the early years of the Church, not all members of the household were Christian. Some family members became baptised Christians but others remained pagan. So Christians were challenged - would you continue to follow Jesus Christ at the risk of alienating yourself from your family? For many Christians, they made the difficult choice of following Jesus even if it meant that they would be expelled from their own family.

So, is this contrary to what Jesus said, that we should honour our father and mother? Not at all. It is all about prioritising God first and then everything will follow. If we love everything material or of this world first then put God second, then we will have difficulties in following Jesus Christ.

So, if it is difficult to follow Jesus Christ, why follow him at all? I think this is where Jesus himself comes into the picture. If we will try to follow him relying on our efforts, we will be bound to fail. But if we ask Jesus for help and rely on his power to follow him, then we’ll be successful in following him. The road is hard, narrow and winding but with Christ to carry us, especially when things become difficult, there is nothing impossible with him.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

We acknowledge their skin-groups, story-lines, traditions, religiosity and living cultures.

We pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Thailand, and Myanmar.

We are committed to building with them, a brighter future together.