Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
November 5, 2014
Phil 2:12-18, Ps 27, Lk 14:25-33
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- In this month of November, the Church has us ponder with special attention the last things. Today in the readings, the Church has us think about salvation to stoke up our desire for it and move us to make the choices that will secure it.
- In the first reading, St. Paul tells the Philippians and us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The word for work in Greek means to “complete the work,” to “finish the job” of your salvation and the word for fear is the Greek word for “reverential awe.” We’re not supposed to be afraid of God but with a holy awe to grasp the gift of God and make sure we allow him to bring to completion the work of salvation he has begun in us. The “trembling” buttresses the holy awe. If someone had a winning megabucks ticket, the person would have to cash it in to receive the winnings. We can imagine how the person would hold take care of the ticket, making sure it wouldn’t be lost, while heading to bring the ticket to lottery officials to obtain the treasure. We’re supposed to treat our salvation as something far more valuable as we seek to reap that eternal gift.
- St. Paul tells us that in this “completing the work,” God gives us his help. “For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.” God both fills us with the desire for salvation and then gives us his grace to act on that desire. We see the desire described in the Responsorial Psalm when the inspired author says, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gave on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate his temple.” God has implanted within us this desire for salvation, for him, for his house, for his kingdom, for his glory, for his love. He always implants within us a desire to seek and ask for what he desires to give us. But then we need to act on that desire and he helps us with that as well. If we’re sick and hoping to get back to health, and go to a doctor to get help, the doctor diagnoses what we have and gives us a prescription. But we have to take the prescription in order to get better. Similarly, it’s not enough for us to have the desire. We need to “complete the work” that the fulfillment of that desire requires. That’s what Jesus describes in today’s Gospel.
- To complete the work of salvation, he says, we need to count the cost and joyfully pay it. We need to grasp that the offer of salvation he gives us through sharing his own eternal life is the pearl of great price, the treasure buried in a field, worth sacrificing everything else to obtain. With a holy awe and trembling, we need to respond to his call to follow him, and he gives us the grace both to desire and to act on that call. He tells us that to follow him as his disciple to salvation, we have to do three things. First, we need to “hate” father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters. The Hebrew word for “hate” doesn’t mean “detest,” but rather “put in second place” or “knock down a peg.” Jesus, after all, calls us to honor our father and mother, not despise them. But we have to make sure that they don’t become gods in our life, that if there is ever a choice between what God is asking of us and what our parents, or husband or wife, or children are asking of us, that we say “God’s will be done” instead of “My loved one’s will be done.” And we need to remember that if we do “hate” them in this way, we actually will love them more because we will love them in God. Second, Jesus says one needs to hate “even his own life,” “carry his own cross” and “follow” Jesus. We need to account his life more valuable than our own, in imitation of him who valued our life more valuable than His. This is the faith that led the martyrs directly to heaven. If we love our comforts, our life in this world more than we love God, then we won’t be completing the work of salvation because Jesus clearly taught us that to save our life we must lose it and that unless we fall to the ground and die like a grain of wheat we won’t bear the fruit of salvation. Third, Jesus says one must “renounce all his possessions.” We must renounce the stuff that possesses us and then as good stewards use everything we have and are for God and his service, giving of ourselves together with our things for God and others, because if we cling to possessions we will not be able to fit through the eye of the needle to salvation.
- In buttressing the conditions of the completion of the work of our salvation, Jesus employs two analogies that point to the cost of discipleship. He says that to build a tower, we need to calculate the cost and get the proper supplies lest we not finish what we began. Likewise, to win a battle, we have to know whether we have the resources to defeat the enemy. In building the tower toward heaven, we have to have the supplies of the detachment he’s describing from ourselves, our loved one’s, our possessions and our life to finish the job. In fighting against the twenty thousand troops of the evil one, we have to divest ourselves of whatever will hinder us in battle, whatever earthly desires the devil can use against us, and put on the armor of God, as we heard last week, and let the Lord be our buckler and shield, his salvation our helmet, his truth our cincture, his holiness our breastplate, his Gospel our sandals, his word our sword, and faith in him our body shield. We won’t be able to finish what’s been started unless we count the cost and pay the cost, knowing that in the biggest picture of all, this is the wisest and greatest deal in life, the pearl and treasure worth more than everything else.
- And as we pay that price with God’s help, acting on that desire by the God-assisted work of building and fighting, we’re supposed to do it with a particularly Christian attitude. St. Paul describes what that attitude needs to be in the second half of today’s first reading.
- First, it’s to be done “without grumbling or questioning.” We remembered how the Jews grumbled in the desert having been freed by God from slavery in Egypt. We know how they questioned Moses and essentially questioned God. Sometimes we can grumble at the cost the Lord asks of us, as if salvation is cheap, as if we should be able to have God and have our idols, too. Rather than murmuring and doubting we need to respond with faith.
- Second, we should do so in a “blameless and innocent” way, as “children of God without blemish.” God wants us to become pure and he’ll give us the help to live without sin, not that we will never be tempted or even occasionally fall, but he’s established the Sacrament of his mercy precisely to help us to live as his beloved children in a way that others, in seeing the way we live, will give glory to our Father in heaven.
- Third, we should complete the work of our salvation “as lights in the world” in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation.” The path to salvation is not meant to be a secret that we keep to ourselves. The Christian life is meant to illumine and warm others, drawing them out of darkness toward the same path and the same Source of light. The light of the world, Jesus himself, called us to be the light of the world, reflecting his light the way the moon reflects the sun’s and not hiding that light under a bushel basket. We’re supposed to share that light with others so that they may walk with us as children of light. There are two ways we need to do that, St. Paul says. The first is to “hold on to the word of life,” by treasuring God’s word, knowing it, enfleshing it, and sharing it. God’s word is a lamp in the darkness to the upright and we need to live by that lamp and help others to do so. Second, one of the most important colors of the bright light of Christians is supposed to be joy. St. Paul says, after describing his own joy, “In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.” Pope Francis is constantly calling us to share the joy of the Gospel because if we’re not sharing and living the faith with joy, we really haven’t yet understood the Gospel.
- St. Paul says toward the end of today’s passage that he was being “poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith.” In Roman pagan worship to which most of the Philippians would have been exposed prior to their conversion, a libation was a cup of wine poured as an offering to the gods before and after every meal, something like the grace we Christians pray at those same times. St. Paul was saying that he was pouring out his life as a libation as the beginning of their sacrifice to God, as a starter and exclamation point of their completing the work of salvation. He was giving his life in other words to help them to sacrifice their own and obtain the prize of salvation. St. Paul learned that type of generosity from Jesus himself. At every Mass, Jesus pours out his own blood as a libation so that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the Father Almighty, so that we may receive all the help we need to pay the price of faith with joy, to choose the Lord, to complete the work of salvation and come to dwell in the house of the Lord, gazing on God’s loveliness, all our days into eternity. This is the chief means by which God, to his good purpose, works in us both the holy desire for salvation and the trembling and awesome work of completing it.
- God gives us the desire and helps us in fulfilling that desire.
- Word without grumbling or questioning, blameless and innocent, children of God, pure, lights into the world, holding onto the word of life, rejoicing and sharing joy
- Seek dwelling with the Lord. Gaze on him and his loveliness.
- Counting cost. Love him more than family. Love him more than comfort. Love him more than possessions. Sacrifice for it.
- Christ’s libation in the Mass. Poured on our sacrificial offering. Giving us that desire. Complete the salvation. Not take it for granted.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 phil 2:12-18
not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent,
work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose,
works in you both to desire and to work.
Do everything without grumbling or questioning,
that you may be blameless and innocent,
children of God without blemish
in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life,
so that my boast for the day of Christ may be
that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
But, even if I am poured out as a libation
upon the sacrificial service of your faith,
I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.
In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.
Responsorial Psalm ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Gospel lk 14:25-33
and he turned and addressed them,
“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.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple.”