Reflections on following Christ in our contemporary world and discerning ones vocation. "Don't be afraid, dear friends, to take the 'alternate' path indicated by true love: a sober and solid lifestyle, with loving, sincere and pure relations, an honest commitment to studies and work, and the profound interest in the common good."
Pope Benedict XVI to the young pilgrims gathered in Loreto, Italy
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Hating for Jesus: Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Courtroom scene from "Amistad"
The film “Amistad” is based on the true
story of a Spanish slave ship that ends up washing ashore in New England after
the slaves kidnapped from Africa were able to mutiny and take control of the
ship.The United States of America had just
been established as a country and therefore was quite weak on the international
scene.The plight of these slaves
becomes a political hot potato and a legal battle as the current presidential
administration would like to send them back to Spain and not rock the boat with
the Spanish monarchy while others are fighting for their freedom.“Are these men free and if not, who do they
belong to?” becomes the primary question.
To help ensure that it gets its way the
president’s administration sees to it that a young, up-and-coming judge is
assigned to the case.The president’s
man on the case makes it known to the judge (who happens to be a Catholic) that
if he finds in favor of Spain and in support of the Administration then his
career is set.For a young judge and a
Catholic in Protestant New England this is his ticket!The case begins and as things progress you
begin to notice that the conscience of the young judge is prodding him to the
point where you see him enter a church the night before the final judgment is
to be given in the case.He walks in,
blesses himself with holy water and goes to knell in prayer before a
crucifix.The next day, to a packed
courtroom, the judge finds in favor of the slaves, thus ensuring their freedom
and return to Africa.The president’s
man stares at the judge and walks out of the courtroom.By siding with the slaves the judge knows he
had destroyed his career and all his aspirations but he knows it was the right
thing to do.
It is a serious thing to follow Christ
and it should not be entered into lightly because to follow Christ means to go
where he has gone and it means to embrace the cross just as he embraced
it.This is why our Lord in today’s
gospel (Lk. 14:25-33) gives us the image of the builder and the king
contemplating battle.Both men had to
truly consider and calculate out what they were contemplating.It is a serious thing to follow Christ.
In many ways to follow Christ means to
break with how one has lived in the past, how one has lived relationships and
how one has gone about all facets of one’s life.This is why our Lord gives us these very
powerful and stark words of “hating” ones mother and father, brother and sister
in order to truly follow him.The power
of the word means that everything, every part of one’s life must be re-oriented
by and toward one’s relationship with Christ.Nothing can be left out or hidden away.But to follow Christ never leads to anything but more life and more
love.As one turns to Christ in his or
her life, one is able to love family, neighbor and even the stranger in a
deeper and more authentic way.
The judge giving his verdict
The judge in the story of Amistad
witnesses this graced dynamic of truly following Christ.Just as he comes to “hate” what others have
promised him – the success and the power, even probably everything he had
worked for and aspired to up until that moment – he is able to know an
authentic joy in doing that which was the right thing to do.He gained a joy that no one could ever take
away and he gained new brothers and sisters in the freed African slaves!
Paul in his letter (Philemon 1:9-10,
12-17) is calling Philemon to the same graced dynamic on behalf of the newly
baptized, runaway slave Onesimus.According to the law of the time Philemon was perfectly in his rights to
have Onesimus killed but Paul is saying that now through Christ things are
different and he is inviting Philemon to “hate” the old ways of retribution and
violence and now recognize how everything must be oriented toward Christ and
turned toward Christ in his life.…Perhaps this is why he was away from you for
a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more
than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as
a man and in the Lord.So if you regard
me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.
It is a truly serious thing to follow
Christ.In fact, it is the most serious
thing one can ever do.All things which
separate us from Christ must be “hated” so true life in all of its depth and
breadth might be found and known.