Wisdom of the Heart and Putting God First

User’s Guide to Sunday, Sept. 8

Sunday, Sept. 8, is the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass readings: Wisdom 9:13-18b; Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33.

In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom we are told that without the Holy Spirit we cannot know, conceive or understand “God’s counsel” or his intentions. So it is that in the Psalm of the day we ask that the Lord might “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

The hope is that with such wisdom we might understand God’s intentions.

In the letter from St. Paul to Philemon we see an example of this “wisdom of heart.”

An old man writing from prison, St. Paul has given up everything and is now even giving up the company of his one companion, Onesimus, sending him back to Philemon. It pains him, but it is what he must do for the sake of the Kingdom.

All of this leads us to the Gospel from St. Luke, where Our Lord tells us that before we can come to him we must “hate” our “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even [our] own life.”

If we cannot do this, we cannot be his disciple.

But what does that mean? Not “hate” in the dictionary sense of the word. Jesus means we must place God first in our lives.

What’s more, if we do not carry our own crosses, we cannot be his disciple either.

Perhaps because it is so familiar to us and associated with devotion and faith, we forget what crucifixion was at Jesus’ time. It was slow torture and execution, public humiliation and total disgrace. It was a means of killing designed to strip the sufferer from any semblance of humanity. And this, Jesus tells us, is the price of discipleship.

To explain himself, Our Lord uses two analogies.

No one tries to build a tower without making sure that he has all the resources necessary to complete the project; and no one goes to war without first figuring out whether he can win. “In the same way,” says Our Lord, “any one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

The answer is the work of salvation; and in this work, there is no middle way.

Jesus demands that we follow him and him alone.

If we desire freedom from sin and salvation, then we must be willing to give up everything, for he is salvation itself.

Today’s readings are, therefore, a reminder to us of Jesus’ divinity. Follow me, he says to us today, and do not look back. He will not agree to any intervening interests. We must love him above all things, and this is an appropriate demand because he is the Lord.

He is salvation because he is God. And so the challenge to us is whether or not we truly believe in his divinity. If we do, then we must give him all.  

Omar Gutierrez is a

 permanent deacon in the

Archdiocese of

Omaha, Nebraska.

He is the president

and co-founder

of the Evangelium Institute.

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