Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday September 8 2019
In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus asks the crowd traveling with him, “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) Of course, Jesus addresses his words not to actual tower builders but to those who desire to follow him in the way of discipleship. The great crowd following Jesus finds his words and personality so attractive that, dropping their present concerns, they immediately fall in step with him. It’s then, on their trek, that he speaks of the truly high cost of discipleship, the analogy of building a tower serving to challenge his followers to cast off all that would keep them from ascending heavenward.
Indeed, all of us who wish to follow Jesus are called to a radical lifestyle, giving our hearts and minds to building a tower through which heaven’s portal becomes accessible. For us Christians, this tower finds its solid foundation right here on the mucky, holy ground of our natural birth and stretches skyward toward the place of eternal rebirth, in the end linking heaven to earth. But how does one begin such a construction? And what are the building materials necessary for such a project’s successful completion? Jesus answers these questions with a succinct challenge: “None of you can become my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions.” (Luke 14:33) A tower to heaven is built of whatever is left over after distractions, preoccupations, fascinations and delusions are jettisoned. Solid, fortress-like, each stone placed upon another in this tower’s construction marks a stretching of the human heart, each stone placed by the builder’s muscular tossing-off of a bit of self. Let a story, a Hasidic Jewish tale, illustrate the labor of placing a single stone on a tower to heaven yet under construction.
“On a journey to Lublin, Rabbi David of Lelov stopped at the home of a dear friend with whom he hoped to make the rest of the journey. His friend was quite poor, yet the friend asked his wife to prepare a meal for his beloved Rabbi David. The woman was shocked at the request, for all she had was a bit of flour, not even a pinch of salt or a drop of oil to add a bit of flavor. Still, she went out to the forest, gathered twigs for a fire, mixed her flour with water, and boiled dumplings for her husband, their friend and herself.
“Upon his return home from Lublin, Rabbi David excitedly told his own wife of the journey and the time spent with their friends. ‘When I ate with my friend, his wife prepared a meal of such delicacy that it tasted as if it was flavored with spice from the Garden of Eden. Never have I eaten such food!’
“Knowing her husband to be of a mystical bent and unimpressed by things of this world, Rabbi David’s wife knew that this delicacy must be rare indeed. She set off at once for their friend’s house and asked his wife to share the recipe with her. ‘What delicacy?’ the friend’s wife said. ‘It was just flour and water.’ ‘No, no,’ the other insisted. ‘My David said it tasted like something from the Garden of Eden.’
“Suddenly her friend’s eyes grew wide with astonishment. ‘God in heaven!’ she said. ‘When I was gathering twigs for the fire, I prayed to God, saying, “Master of the Universe, I have nothing with which to honor Rabbi David, but you, O God, have the Garden of Eden. So please, won’t you add a bit of spice to these dumplings I am cooking that Rabbi David might find some enjoyment in them?” It seems that God heard my prayer!’” (From Tales of the Hasidim)
How does one build a tower to heaven? What are the building materials needed for such a project? Faith in God’s providence and a heart willing to share even what seems so very little become building blocks for a life ascending heavenward. The impoverished wife in the story with but a little flour and water provided something akin to Eden’s banquet. The key is to keep faith and be generous always with whatever we have. God will do the rest.