23 Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 8, 2019
Our Gospel this Sunday begins in a very shocking way. Jesus appears to be encouraging us to hate! Clearly, that isn’t the case, although the opening lines of this passage are intended to shock us and get our attention. It would seem that The Lord wants to stimulate our imagination so that we can enjoy a glimpse of things we can’t actually see…at least not with our eyes. And what we enjoy a brief glimpse of is the Kingdom of God. What Jesus wants us to see with our hearts is such total and complete peace and joy that no person, no relationship, no earthly thing is more important.
The passage continues with two examples of the absolute need to “count the cost” of admission. Moreover, we are told that what is at risk is so important that we have to be in a constant state of preparation.
Think of it this way:
Once again, “hurricane season” is upon us. Together with loss of life, countless injuries, and devastating property damage comes what some experts refer to as “hurricane fatigue.” A life-threatening symptom of “hurricane fatigue” is denial. Worn out by season after season of emergency preparations, and even evacuations, only to have a storm exhaust itself at sea, some people underestimate the threat that looms over them. They convince themselves that this is just another false alarm, and ignore the authority’s advice to get out of harm’s way. Others talk themselves into believing that they are far enough from the sea, or live in a totally secure home, and that no further preparations are needed. They fail to take any precautions beyond stocking up on groceries. Suffering from denial, many have then suffered dire consequences by riding out a storm. Those that survive often declare: NEVER AGAIN!
Evil is like a hurricane. Evil is a swirling, dark force that hovers over every season of our lives, regardless of where we live. Sometimes we experience the outer rings of the storm with garden variety temptations…little more than heavy rain or high wind. Even when we fall victim, there doesn’t appear to be lasting damage, and so we let our guard down. Other times, however, we get trapped in the eye of the hurricane and are literally sucked into mortal danger through mortal sin.
Evil is like that; it is powerful enough to change the course of our lives and drive us so far from the Kingdom that, sometimes, it becomes impossible to find the way back. Most of the time, however, evil just looms off in the distance like a hurricane brewing far out in the ocean. We get tired of preparing. We get so accustomed to the warnings that we begin to ignore them. We underestimate the power of evil that threatens our lives. It’s as if we suffer from “sin fatigue.” We fall into a state of denial that evil will make landfall where we live, and we do little or nothing to prepare to face off against this powerful force. Many have suffered from “sin fatigue” and try to ride out the storms of life without preparing spiritually…and as a result…they have suffered dire consequences.
Today’s Gospel begins in a shocking way. It is intended to alarm us and to hold our attention. The Lord is offering us a vision of what we might lose if we aren’t prepared to defend it. Storm warnings must be taken seriously. Spiritual storm warnings demand immediate action….eternal life is at risk.