HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: A WINNING STRATEGY
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyon
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 4 2022
1. Less is more. Young Tommy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to one of his customers, “This is little boy is the most dull-witted kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.” The barber puts a 20 dollar bill in one hand and a mere 1 dollar bill in the other, then calls Tommy over and asks, “Which do you want, Tommy?” The boy takes the 1 dollar bill and leaves. “What did I tell you?” said the barber. “That kid never learns!” Later, when the customer leaves, he sees Tommy coming out of the ice cream parlor. “Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take 1 dollar instead of 20 dollars?” The boy licked his ice cream cone, smiling, and replied: “Because the day I take the 20 dollars, the game is over!” Tommy had a winning strategy. For him, less is more.
2. Strategy. In simple terms, a strategy outlines how goals will be achieved by the means or resources available. In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 14:25-33), our Lord highlights the importance of strategy for success or victory. Effective strategy is needed to complete a building, secure victory in battle, and so on. And then our Lord adds a very chilling and frightening strategy for success in being a Christian: “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” I have a lot of admiration for the earliest disciples of Jesus because, they left everything and followed Him. Referring to Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Lk 5:11 says: “And when they had brought their boats ashore, they left everything and followed Him.” Mt 4:22 says “….and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him”. These were not figures of speech. Later on, in Lk 18:28, Peter reminded our Lord “Look, we have left everything we had to follow You.” Our Lord’s requirement for discipleship does not end in a loss. It ends in total gain. It is a strategy for gaining all. In Mt 19:29 our Lord states: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of my name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” Our Lord’s statement: “…anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” may seem frightening and unrealistic. However, a deeper reflection reveals that our Lord’s teaching is really the truth about the cost of discipleship. He is telling us ALL that Christianity will cost us. My being a Christian will cost me everything I have. In his book, “The Cost of Discipleship”, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, makes a distinction between cheap grace and costly grace: “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
3. Winning Strategy. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ as Lord and God has everything. None of us has everything. If we renounce all we have to follow Christ, then we have access to everything through Jesus Christ. It is a winning strategy to follow the One who has everything and who gives what we truly need. The boats that Peter, Andrew, James and John abandoned to follow Jesus were repurposed for the building of the Kingdom of God. Our Lord taught crowds from such boats and traveled in them: Mk 3:9 “Jesus asked His disciples to have a boat ready for Him so that the crowd would not crush Him.” Peter’s mother in law was healed of a high fever by our Lord (Luke 4:38–41). Thus, our parents, our relatives and friends who seem to be shortchanged when we follow Christ, end up becoming beneficiaries of our discipleship. Even our enemies benefit. Onesimus in today’s 2nd reading, benefited from Philemon’s discipleship for Paul appealed to Philemon to forgive and take back Onesimus.