Sunday, Sept. 8, is the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle 1).
Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17; Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33
Today’s readings call us to a new relationship with God.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that our relationship with him is more important than our relationships with our family. “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,” he says.
In Semitic usage, “hate,” here, doesn’t mean we must despise our family members. It means that the love we have for God should be different in kind from the love we have for other human beings. For God, we are willing to do anything and change everything.
In the second reading, St. Paul continues this theme. He writes to Philemon about his runaway slave Onesimus. Since Onesimus is now a Christian, Paul wants Philemon to release him; but he knows this will be hard for him.
Slavery was always an evil institution: No man can own another. St. Paul, by pointing out that Onesimus is the equal of his master, helped to change the institution of slavery.
But in our day, we can apply St. Paul’s instructions to Onesimus and Philemon to our own attitude toward work. Just as Jesus points out that our obligations to God are greater than our obligations to family, St. Paul points out that our obligations to God are greater than our obligations to our employer or employees.
How can we balance it all and make God the primary recipient of our attention?
There is one person who exemplifies this new relationship with God that supersedes all others: the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Her “fiat” to God was complete and total. “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” she said, and with that, she consented to become the Mother of Christ, making the Incarnation possible. In so doing, she transformed all the plans she had for her life to incorporate God’s new call.
Throughout her life, she remained a model of the new relationship we are called to in Christ: Her seven sorrows tested and deepened her, culminating in the crucifixion of her son, when she was given to the Church as our mother.
As a couple, we have been contemplating the Blessed Mother a lot this year, as we have prepared to consecrate ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary using Father Michael Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory. April made her consecration on our wedding anniversary, the Aug. 15 Assumption feast day, and Tom will make his on Sept. 8, the date of the Nativity of Mary, when Benedictine College will also be consecrated to Mary.
Partnering with the woman who followed God better than any human being before or since, Mary, we too can live out the call of today’s readings to make our relationship with God the fundamental relationship of our lives.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.