Friends, I feel called to begin this homily with a couple of lines from Psalm 90 in today’s Scriptures which address the passage of time through the virtue of wisdom. “In every age, O’ God, you have been our refuge…make us realize the shortness of life that we may gain wisdom of heart.” I find myself thinking this way because in the next two months, September and October, our family remembers the passage of time in three birthdays and three wedding anniversaries. “In every age, O’ God, you have been our refuge.”
With the passage of time, as made obvious by the increasing years in both birthdays and anniversaries, reflection upon what the years have been is appropriate and necessary to keep moving ahead. This past week, the president of our United States of America felt compelled to speak to our nation, challenging each of us, regardless of political party, to strive toward being our best as people in order that we can protect our democracy, a dream that we haven’t yet realized, but one that is currently being threatened by violent extremists intent on their own selfish agenda of having what they want, when they want, regardless of whom is hurt in the process. He basically told the nation, our nation, that violence is never, ever the way to anything worth having.
In the New Testament letter to Philemon, Paul, writing from prison, appeals to his convert in the faith, Philemon, a slaveholder, to give up his old ways. “I …appeal [to you] in the name of love.” In other words, just like President Biden stating that violence against the rule of law and its’ defenders has no place in a democracy, Paul in writing to Philemon, clearly says that Christianity and “slaveholding” are incompatible.
The first reading from the book of Wisdom today perhaps sheds some more light on the difficulty we humans have at times, doing the right thing, what is, as our president said in his speech, “the work of our better angels.” The Wisdom writer gives us the following: “For a perishable body presses down the soul and a clay house weighs down the restless mind.”
Each of us friends, comes into our human experience hard-wired to love and live out, to the best of our abilities what we have been gifted with by our God. And into this mix comes that “perishable body,” described as a “clay house” that through our free wills, egos, and self-preservation get in the way “of the good we would do,” as Paul speaks of it, in another place.
Continuing in the Wisdom reading for today, the Spirit, that walked with our brother Jesus all the days of his earthly life, has this to say: “The paths on earth have been straightened…” In other words, as our brother said before leaving this earth, “I will be with you all days.”
So friends, it would seem that we, each one of us have all that we need to become our best selves—and not just for ourselves, but for others. Our gospel today from Luke gives us a hint about what this might look like. These words from our brother Jesus through the pen of Luke, at first glance, seem rather tough and hard to shallow, and we wonder, can Jesus really be saying that in order to follow him, we must turn our backs on our families—to abandon them?
As with all of Jesus’ teachings, we have to remember to not take his meaning literally. Also, we have to keep in mind that Jesus was operating under a bit of a time crunch, so to speak—he knew his days of life here were short. We, like our president in this past week’s speech, must realize the urgency of getting the message across.
When it comes to being Jesus’ followers, and today, for us, in “forming a more perfect union,” reflecting President Biden’s plea to us in 2022, that does reflect striving toward, “justice for all,” the time to do these grand deeds, both for Jesus and for our president, seems short!
We know from everything else that Jesus said and did in his earthly life, that he would not advocate for leaving our parents behind and in need. His point, I believe, is to stress that we get ourselves clear, once we have decided to follow him, there is no turning back—we must strive to do justice wherever and whenever possible, for all or most of the people—we must always do the most loving thing.
Practically speaking, we will most likely take care of our families while we are accomplishing the works of peace, justice, mercy, and love. Amen? Amen!