23rd Sunday C
Sunday 4th September 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
A great number of people followed Jesus and turning he said to them, ‘If anyone comes after me and does not hate father, mother, spouse, children, brothers and sisters, and yes, even their own life, that person cannot be my disciple. And the one who doesn’t bear their own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
‘Think very carefully…which of you, intending to construct a building, wouldn’t sit and work out whether you would have enough assets to finish the job? If you didn’t, you might find you had laid the foundation and didn’t have enough to complete it. Then you would be the laughing stock of all around, with people saying, “What an idiot! He began a project and couldn’t finish.”
‘Or what ruler intending to go to war against another ruler wouldn’t sit down and work out the strength of his nation’s forces against the other nation’s? If those forces were much greater, wouldn’t the ruler send emissaries to sue for peace long before battle could begin?
‘Just so, whoever among you is not prepared to forsake all their possessions, that person cannot be my disciple.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 89:3-6, 12-14, 17
You turn mortals into dust,
saying, ‘Return, human children.’
A thousand years in your eyes
are like yesterday – past-
like time drifting in the night.
They are swept away as in a flood,
as passing as sleep
as transient as grass.
In the morning, it sprouts and shoots,
in the evening, it is harvested and dried.
Teach us to number our days
and we will learn wisdom of heart.
Return, O God, how long will we wait
for you to fill us with your mercy.
Each morning fill us with your kindness
and we will rejoice and be glad all our days.
Let the beauty of God be upon us.
Bless the work of our hands.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving Jesus, you have called me to be a disciple, not an admirer. Send me your Spirit to show me where I compromise in being your disciple. Sift my heart and show me where those people and things that undermine my commitment to your Gospel.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
Just before the reading from this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus has been banqueting with the Pharisees and giving them a challenging time for their attitudes. Last Sunday, we heard his call to them to offer hospitality to the marginalised and rejected. He then went on with a parable showing how those who are too engrossed in their affair can miss the invitation to the Kingdom of God and how God will turn from them and invite the least likely to enter the Kingdom of God.
Now in this Sunday’s Gospel, vast multitudes (the least likely) are following Jesus. They saw him as their leader, going to Jerusalem to take on the Romans and the political and religious establishment (read scribes and Pharisees) who had oppressed them or failed to serve their needs. Needless to say they were enthusiastic for this revolutionary saviour and his coming Kingdom. In the light of such enthusiasm Jesus’ challenges are like a bucket of cold water. Stop and think, stop and think hard, he cries out. The opening line is so wild, we tend to dismiss it by saying Jesus was just using a Semitic idiom to express ‘prefer’. Still, even if we soften it in that manner, it is still wild. The crowds must have wondered if Jesus was a nutter. He expected them to be more devoted to him than to anyone else: not only one’s family members but even one’s own self.
Jesus then tells them to take up their cross. We so glibly use the word ‘cross’ that we fail to remember what a thing of horror it would have been to these people. They had seen what had happened to revolutionaries – they were crucified. Now Jesus warns them that if they continue to follow him, that is how they will end up. ‘This leader doesn’t seem too confident about his own revolution,’ I can almost hear someone up the back saying.
Jesus offers two graphic parables calling these people to think hard about what they are letting themselves in for. Then his final challenges calls on them to leave all their possessions: not the excess, not the luxuries but even the little they had. By now they must have been truly wondering what sort of saviour this man was. We hear it in next Sunday’s Gospel with the three parables of the lost: the sheep, the drachma and the son. Those who are truly lost are the ones who will understand and welcome this coming Kingdom.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Jesus certainly didn’t know much about advertising. A marketing consultant would have been in despair with the way Jesus addresses the large crowd following him. Indeed, one must wonder if Jesus was trying to drive them away rather than encourage them to follow him. Was he treating them with contempt?
– He tells them they have to make hard choices in his favour. (You can’t ‘have it all’ with Jesus).
– He tells them they must face suffering and challenge. (For Jesus’ followers ‘life is not easy.’)
– He tells them to think hard and long about the cost of following him. (No impulse buying with Jesus.)
– He tells them they must detach themselves from their possessions. (Isn’t good living meant to be rewarded – don’t we deserve it all!)
Or rather is he treating them with the most profound respect? These people have come with a minimal level of commitment. Maybe they admired him. Maybe he was the political or social leader they craved. Maybe they had been fed or healed and wanted more. All these are a superficial to a relationship. In asking them for a commitment that costs not less than everything, Jesus is asking them, and us, for the same level of commitment he offers to us! He has preferred us to all. He has taken up his cross. He has left all for the sake of us. Indeed, he has loved deeply, and passionately – and he believes we are capable of responding in like. How can your heart speak to this heart?
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
Earlier this year we went through a bruising Federal election. Never have I known such a sense of despair amongst my friends and acquaintances. We hunger for leaders of integrity, honesty and vision and we get cheap slogans and empty posturing. Imagine if Jesus came along and offered himself as leader. We would follow him as enthusiastically as the people in today’s Gospel…but what would he turn and say to us?
If you follow me, the way you love has to radically change. I have to be at the core of your love…and then you will love like me.
If you follow me, you will have humiliation, suffering, even death. That happens when you love like me.
If you follow me, I want you to think hard and long. I don’t want you to experience disappointment, humiliation and failure because you didn’t seriously consider your choices.
If you follow me, I will not look after your hip pocket. Indeed possessions mean nothing in my Kingdom except as a way to share with others, especially the poor and vulnerable. Economics should help the poor and marginalised. A strong economy cares for the weakest first.
As disciples of Jesus, we are offered a very different way of living than the world’s way. Our political leaders are never going to offer the values Jesus offers but we can still live by his values. Indeed we can vote for them…with our lives. How will you vote for Jesus this week?
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- Cosimo Rosselli Jesus preaching to the crowds (Click Red Text)
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
Jesus’ call for us to love him before all other people is certainly challenging. As you go through this week, mull on how loving Jesus before and above all can influence the way in which you love other people….for the better.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Ponder on the places in your life where you experience the cross. How do you react to these times of suffering, challenge or difficulty? Do you accept or struggle against these crosses?
Take time to sit with each cross and ask Jesus to show you how you could carry these crosses in a more life-giving way. Imagine different responses to each situation.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Lord, to Whom Shall We Go by Scoot Soper
- Be Thou my Vision by Irish Traditional.
- You Are All We Have by Francis Patrick O’Brien
- Only This I Want by Dan Schutte