September 8, 2019
XXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today’s Gospel passage (Lk 14:25-32) leads us outside the house of the Pharisee, who, in last Sunday’s text, extended the invitation to dine (Lk 14:1.12) and it puts us back on our way.
The theme of ‘way’, as we’ve already said many times, is important, and must always be kept in mind, because the way of Jesus has a precise destination, Jerusalem.
Today, also, the destination of the way provides us with keys to understanding.
Three times, in today’s passage, words that speak of the end, of fulfilment occur (Lk 14:28.29). Jesus is addressing the large crowd that follows Him, and He reminds them they must take seriously this following, in a way that it can be fulfilled, that can reach its fullness.
This terminology regarding fulfilment is very important in the Gospel of Luke, and it often appears.
It appears at the beginning of the public mission of Jesus, when, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus rises, reads some verses from the prophet Isaiah, and affirms, at that moment, that the Word of salvation is fulfilled in Him (Lk 4:21).
The terminology returns in a strategic place, in the middle of the Gospel, when the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem begins: “When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51).
And it shows up again at the end, both before the passion, during the Last Supper, where it occurs five times (Lk 21:22,24; Lk 22:16,37,38), and after the resurrection when the Risen Lord explains to His disciples the all the events He foretold must really happen so that the salvation granted by the Father can be fulfilled (Lk24:44).
Jesus is on the journey to the fulfilment of His life and He warns His disciples about the fulfillment of their lives. Jesus’ fulfilment is His glorious and resurrected body: this is also our end, the goal to which we tend, and we have no other. It is precisely so because His fulfilment is what makes our fulfilment possible, which is nothing other than welcoming and participating in His fullness of life.
Now, the warnings that the Lord gives here point out the way to come into this fulfillment. And it seems that all proceed in a single direction, that of freedom, which makes a new style of life possible, a new measure of love. He speaks of three essential areas where freedom is to be sought: freedom from family ties, from oneself, from goods.
Freedom, first of all, from family ties, of which Jesus uses very strong words, saying that we must hate Father, mother, brothers, children, brothers, and sisters (Lk 14:26). These strong statements have a double meaning.
The first means that the new life is the life that does not come from family, but from grace. Everyone is called to a death, to a passage, from all that has been transmitted to us through blood, marked by transience and sin, to a new life that is God’s life in us; only this life can reach fulfilment.
The second is in the sense that these ties risk becoming a protected place from which to draw security and life, keeping us anchored to the past, to the old, impeding us from attempting a complete trust in the Lord. All this is what must be hated, or rejected, recognized as a way that leads to death.
But this is not enough: in the same verse, Jesus also says that we must hate ourselves, just as we hate our family. And behind it, we see the same logic, for which at the moment whereby we seek security and life in ourselves and our strength, in the end, we find ourselves on a path of death.
Paradoxically, only the way of the cross is a way of life: a way whereby we open ourselves to the total gift of ourselves, without thinking of our interests, our success.
Finally, there is the invitation to become free from material goods, from human and earthly security. And this through the two parables of the tower, and the king who prepares for war (Lk 14:28-33), two parables built on a paradox by which it is not the one who has more riches that completes the work, but, on the contrary, the one who has none.
Discipleship is this leaving all that does not give life, except in appearance, to be able to contain in oneself the very life of God, His measure of love.