23rd Sun [C] 2010

Fr. Charles Irvin

Wisdom 9:13-28; Philemon 10:12-17; Luke 14:25-33  

We’re hearing a lot of talk these days about “change.” It’s been one of the big words in the recent history of our Church and we are hearing about it again with next year’s publication of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal with its changes. Change is one of the buzzwords in today’s business world. Economists are talking about it a lot. As we all know it’s the word “change” that swept Barrack Obama into the presidency of our country. Politicians in the forthcoming November elections tell us that they are going to bring us change, a whole lot of change. And for those of us who pay taxes, small change is that which we will have left over after our politicians get done with taxing us.
Jesus ushered in change; He brought with Him His own revolution. The gospel of today speaks of the radical change in attitude Jesus sets in front of us. What Jesus is really doing is giving His disciples a reality check: Are they willing to pay the price? Do they know the price of the change Jesus has in mind? Jesus well knew the costs involved in change. We find Him here in today’s Gospel episode on the way to Jerusalem. There He would be spit on, laughed at, humiliated, tortured, and put to death in the most excruciating of ways. It would change everything in our relationship with God.
Here we find Him wheeling around and confronting those who were following Him. He stopped them dead in their tracks and asked: Do you REALLY know what you’re doing? Are you sure you are willing to follow in my footsteps? Did you count the costs? And are you willing to pay them?
You see, we all want cost free and painless change. We want to lose forty pounds by swallowing a pill, not by suffering hunger pangs and melting the fat off in sweaty exercises. We want to reduce the federal debt without paying for it – without raising taxes and solely through cutting off what others receive in governmental programs. Cut their benefits, not mine!! Tax the others, not me. Reduce the federal debt but make sure I don’t have to suffer in doing it!
Jesus, I say, wanted change. And so did His followers. And so do we. We find ourselves in the same old patterns; we treat our wives, our husbands, and we treat our children in the same old ways, all the while being upset with ourselves for doing it. We never seem to pray well. And when we pray it’s always in the teeth of misfortune, never when things are going well for us. And how often do we thank God? Praise God? Give to God’s causes? It’s always get, get, get. It’s always the same with God, our spouses, our children, and our families. When will we ever change?
Change, as I say, is costly. It hurts. It demands energy, time, and what’s deep down inside us. There’s a country not far from ours that once had a terrible dictator. He was really sucking the blood out of the poor. The farmers of that country got upset. They organized themselves and shot the old dictator. They appointed their own new leader. And after a few years that new leader turned into a dictator. He too ended up sucking the very blood out of the poor. The farmers got upset. They organized themselves and….. well, you know the story. It’s the same old repeated story that’s found in human history, found in our own families, and that’s found in our own personal lives.
Are you willing to pay the cost for real change? Don’t try to build a new city or a new world unless you have counted the cost. Don’t try to raise and army and fight a revolution unless you are willing to pay the price… a terrible price. Unless you do, nothing will be won. Two chapters ahead of today’s Gospel account St. Luke reports Jesus declaring: “The law and the prophets lasted until John; but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence. (Luke 16:16) What He’s saying is that one has to take harsh measures in changing our old comfortable self with its old comfortable and oh so familiar ways.
Comfort and change cannot both exist in the same person or the same people at one and the same time. Do not say that you are going to change anything, your government, your political loyalties, your amount of body fat, your drinking patterns, your smoking habits, your ways of relating to those around you, or your spiritual life, without giving up all that offers you comfort and security. Change costs.
Do not try to change anything at all, and most especially do not try to change your relationship with your self, with others, or with God, unless you are willing to pay the real costs. If you’re not willing, then you’re not willing to change anything at all. And nothing will happen; nothing will be won.                                                                 
Being a real disciple of Christ is way of life that is demanding. It can cost you the loss of friendships. Others will ridicule you, laugh at you, and scorn you for our values. Let me give you some examples:
Being openly pro-life. Respecting all of human life from its first moment of its existence until it, in the end, returns to God.
Having strong morals in a world that claims your have a right sensual pleasure and gratification first and foremost, in a world that tells us “anything goes so long as it’s between consenting adults.”
Holding to the value that marriage is a lifetime covenant commitment between a man and a woman oriented toward having children and raising them to have strong characters.
Respecting God and taking Him seriously — listening to His voice, caring for the gifts He as bestowed upon us.
Supporting public policies that protect and support our Christian values.
Jesus came to establish one church, not many churches. His teachings as they come to us in the Bible are meant to be understood and applied equally to all, not simply accepted and interpreted individually. In our Catholic Church we worship as a 2,000 year old community in a shared communion, not simply as an aggregate of individuals each with his or her own private relationship with Jesus Christ. We are a family of faith, united, whole, and under one roof led by the successors of St. Peter and the college of Apostles. We have schools, hospitals, and social service agencies that cost but we give generously to support them because Jesus taught, healed, and cared for the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the outcasts among whom He lived.
What I am saying is that discipleship costs, it costs us in terms of comfort, popularity, time, energy, and treasure. Being a disciple of Christ is, when you stop and think about it, a calling that is radical. It goes to the root of who we are, how we understand ourselves, and how we appear in the eyes of others.
Jesus ushered in change, a radical change in the ways in which we relate to our selves, to others, and to God. There’s nothing automatic about our salvation; it makes demands on what we do, what we value, how we see our selves, and how we relate to others. The demands are not easy but the rewards are out of this world. 

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”