This Sunday’s readings deal with three themes.
1. Discipleship. Jesus is bold and demanding in what he expects of those who follow in his way of love, compassion and forgiveness. Everyone must examine the priority of relationships, who is truly first in one’s life. Does God have supreme and
undivided sway within the soul? The “hating” of relatives must be interpreted in the light of the commandment of love. The issue here is whether or not some human agenda trumps God’s will.
Jesus goes on to talk about possessions as well as relationships. Are we enslaved by what we have to such an extent that “things” and “stuff” possess our hearts and are put on the pedestal of idolatry? Though we do not like to admit it, possessions and prestige and power have tremendous influence on our daily lives. Jesus wants us to be free and joyful. Entanglement in possessions thwarts those graces.
2. Community. Discipleship is about community. Together we care and share about the same things, the things of the kingdom: truth, charity, freedom and justice. St. Paul is imprisoned and he is deeply concerned whether or not his “child” Onesimus will be treated as a slave or a brother. So much rides on this decision. For, if Onesimus is not accorded human dignity, then the people to whom Onesimus is sent are, in that very act, rejecting St. Paul as a partner and are failing to live out their call.
We need but pause for a moment to reflect on whether the strangers in our midst are welcomed or rejected.
3. Wisdom. In order to live out the life of discipleship we need the grace of wisdom and counsel, the grace to understand the things of heaven. What a challenge this is since we have such difficulty understanding the things of earth. The author of the book of Wisdom understood well that without the grace of wisdom from God and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we will fail both in our understanding and in our loving. Disciples of Jesus need to invoke the Holy Spirit on a daily basis in order to stay the course. Our finite minds and our narrow hearts are inadequate to the task.
Between our readings today we pray: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge,” and “Let your face shine upon your servant; and teach me your laws.” With God’s help, we can follow Christ with courage and conviction. And our faith assures us that God’s help is always available.
Questions for reflection
1. What is your understanding of discipleship?
2. Where do you go for wisdom and counsel?
3. What is your experience of the Christian community?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.