Sunday Scriptures — OT C 23, Sept. 4, 2016

The first reading — Wisdom 9:13-18b — speaks of the limits of human intelligence. There are two factors in play. One is that the body limits the soul. We shouldn’t take this to mean that the body is evil, as the Manichæans would say, or that it is not fully part of the human person, as Plato believed. We believe that the human is not a soul which will eventually be released from its prison, the body. We believe that body and soul are both essential elements of a human being. Nevertheless, in our fallen condition, the flesh, as St. Paul uses the term, opposes the spirit. The second factor, related to the gospel of the day, is that our minds are finite and need the help of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s will.
In the responsorial psalm – verses of Psalm 90 — we reflect on our mortality and our reliance on God’s enduring support.
The second reading — Philemon 9-10, 12-17 — is Paul’s instruction to Philemon to recognize his returning slave Onesimus as a brother in the Lord. Legally, Philemon had a right to punish Onesimus for running away. Morally, as a Christian, he did not have that right. We too must realize that we are called to higher standards than simply taking every benefit the law allows. As Christians, we are to love and forgive, and to recognize the dignity of every human being as a person, not an object we may use.
The gospel — Luke 14:25-33 — presents “the cost of discipleship.” We must prefer nothing to Christ: not our families, not our possessions, not even ourselves. Some, like St. Teresa of Calcutta, are called to literally give up everything. Most are called to a renunciation which recognizes that what we have really belongs to God and must not be used selfishly. Furthermore, we are called to love others, so we do not literally “hate” them. We just do not let them draw us away from Christ. We find that a Christian attitude can actually draw us closer to people, as with Philemon and Onesimus. Families should be more loving, employers and employees should deal generously with each other. People should deal kindly with one another. If we are going to call ourselves Christian we need to be aware of the cost, as the world reckons cost. We cannot grasp what it means to be Jesus’ disciple without the help of the Holy Spirit, as the first reading indicated, because it’s a matter of understanding the mind of God.

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