MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on hating the people in your life to follow Christ.  What can he possibly mean by that?  Who are you?  How do you list your “race” on an application? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for the 23nd Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please read Luke 14:25-33. #GreatPreaching #HateMyFamilyForChrist  #Sermons#Homilyhelper

For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   9/8/2013  The 23rd   Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Luke 14:25-33.
Identity Crisis
Please get a pen or pencil and write down the answer to this question.  When you meet a person, what words do you use to introduce yourself other than your name?  Please write down the words you use to describe yourself.  In answering what words you use to introduce yourself, did you write down “Christian?”  It is what and who you and I are when we become disciples of Jesus Christ.
     Whenever I have to fill out an application for credit cards, financing, or any other application I can think of, there is a category that says “Race” with several boxes after it.  You can choose, “White”, “African American,” “Asian,” “American Indian,” and “Other,” which has a space after it for you to put what you are.  I used to check “Other” and write “Slavic-American”.  That is, until I realized that who I am is not defined by the color of my skin or my ethnicity, but by who I worship.  I am a Christian, by race.  And now, that is what I write down on the application.  Here what St. Peter says in his First Letter,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
When we follow Jesus, our identity is changed.  All our relationships are now defined by our relationship with him and our relationship with his community of believers.  This is why Jesus says,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
It is a stunning statement.  A very strong statement.  But it is a statement we need to hear.
     What Jesus is saying is this: Our religion must be the most important thing in our lives.  Following Jesus must be front and center.  All things we do must be judged by that.  I want you to take that piece of paper and cross out whatever it is that you wrote down there and write this, “I AM A CHRISTIAN. I LEAVE EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW CHRIST.”
Now what do I mean by “everything?”
Well, it is like one of those houses we see where about six or seven years ago someone built the foundation and maybe put up the frame of one wall.  Then it just sat there year after year.  Who would want to live there?  It is an unfinished house.  The thing is sad at best and just ridiculous at worst.   When we say that we are a follower of Jesus and then do not try to do what he calls us to do, then we are unfinished houses.  No one, not even the Lord, wants to dwell in an unfinished house.  We cannot be unfinished houses.
     To be an unfinished house is to let your personal feelings, personal relationships or your personal possessions get between you and Christ?  What did we think that Christ was asking us to be when we were called to believe in him?  Didn’t we realize that Jesus Christ would replace what we wanted to be and do with what he wants us to be and do?  Didn’t we sit down and realize that Jesus would call us to do what he needs to have done?
We are Christians.  We are to be willing to do whatever it is that needs to be done for Jesus Christ.  This doesn’t mean that we are to lose all principle.  It means that we are to be willing to give up the comfort of our personal relationships, our personal possessions and our personal feelings so that our lives conform to the principle of loving Jesus Christ with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our minds.
Today’s passage is hard.  In fact, we are in the midst of a string of hard passages.
I remember the day my mother told me I could no longer live at home.  It was a hard day.  I was angry and upset.  I huffed and puffed, but I moved out.  When I did, I found out I could not only make it, but I could thrive.
     I bet that it was hard for those Pharisees and Scribes to hear that the center of our lives should be Jesus Christ.  We should sit down and count the cost of discipleship before we follow him.  All of us should ask the question, what does my faith in Jesus Christ mean to me?  What am I willing to give up to follow Jesus Christ?
I love everyone who is in my care.  I believe that you are capable of achieving great things at any moment.  But I wonder sometimes what we really want in our churches, in our religion.  I have met some of the most wonderful people, religious people, in the ministry God has given me.  Sometimes, I am so frustrated.
God has allowed me to see such great potential in the people around me, we who have done and can do incredible things.  We religious people accomplish a lot, but often, all that we do is the foundation and a few walls on the house.  Someone asked me if I wanted all who hear my words to be ‘professional Christians’.  My answer is that I don’t want people to be professional Christians, Jesus wants us to put the cares of this world secondarily to what he wants us to do.  I am simply the messenger.
     Christianity is at a turning point in many of our churches.  The central question is, do we want to be churches which make an impact in our communities on behalf of Jesus Christ?  Do we want to put in the effort and make the sacrifices which are necessary?
Churches often have good leadership in their lay chairpersons of their committees, but it is hard for lay people to dedicate themselves to committees when we are teaching the people that religion is a consumer driven enterprise.  Christianity is not about what we can get out of it only.  Christianity is about the sacrifice on the cross lived out in our own lives daily.  We need to respond to our local churches.  When we get notices of service, we need to go.  We need to do.  Are you doing?
The Church needs teachers, and your church needs those who are teachers to lay aside their tiredness of teaching and teach for Jesus Christ.  It is God who gave you the gift of teaching, and he needs you to teach.
The Church needs people to evangelize.  We need people who are willing to put aside their dislike of the idea of evangelizing to do it.  Jesus Christ is calling you to evangelize the world for Him.
The Church needs youth leaders.  And the Church needs people who are willing to lay aside their hesitancy of sponsoring youth and do it.  The Church needs, the young people need and Jesus Christ needs, you to do it for Him.
When there is a plea for help in your church bulletin if you haven’t already done so, you need to answer the call.  Whoever you are, don’t do it to preserve the institution, do it because you love Jesus Christ.
     Whether or not you like your pastor makes no difference in the future of your church.  We, in this country, have got to stop picking up speed with one pastor and shift gears downward with another.  We need to stop having our energy level determined by the pastor’s energy level.  The pastor is given to you by God to guide you, but you must do the work of the Gospel.
It is the work of the lay people that determines the reputation and the future of any church.  The future depends upon what the future of your church is worth to you.  Your church should only be worth what Jesus Christ is worth to your life.
 
So, that leaves us with the passage from the Gospel today.  How do you describe yourself?  Are you a “Christian”?  If you are, then that means that all other commitments are secondary to your love of Jesus Christ and service to the church.  The success of your parish of believers in Jesus Christ is directly dependent upon you, if you haven’t done so already, to express your love for God through your church by the giving of your time, talent and treasure.  So, what is it that God has called you to do that you have put on the back burner because you are letting your personal relationships, your personal possessions and your personal feelings get in the way?  Do something about it.  Do it now. Amen?  Amen.
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