Lame Excuses

by Fr. Mark Kurowski | MySpiritualAdvisor2019

#LameExcuses is the podcast for September 8, 2019, What do 5th graders and Pharisees have to do with Jesus? Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke14 #YouthGroup #Youth #Excuses #Discipleship #FollowJesus

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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   9/8/2019  The 23rd   Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Luke 14:25-33.

         You know you are old when you are thinking of something that seemed not too long ago and you realize that it was 15 years ago. It was 15  years ago that I was asked to take over a youth ministry at a very large parish. As is my custom, and because I hate to reinvent the wheel, I called a Catholic ministry association and got info on the most active and vibrant youth groups across the United States at the time. I wanted to see what they all had in common.  Maybe there was a pattern to their success which everyone stumbled upon without knowing it. There was.

         One of the things that successful youth ministries do is have all the elements of faith formation for every event. Every event should have a faith teaching component. Right? That is what it is all about. Every event should have a fun component to build community. Every event should have worship. Every event should have food. (That one was stressed.).

         Another thing that successful youth ministries do is reach out to the mothers, not the kids. They combine junior and senior high for as many events as possible, always separating the two for serious discussion. They focus on leadership development skills for the church that are transferrable to other walks of life. Lastly, most importantly, there is one thing that all youth ministries must do to be successful and stay successful: they need to start their young people in the ministry programs the summer after fifth grade.

         They need to start that summer because beginning in sixth grade, the American sports and extracurricular complex kicks in and we lose our youth until they have children, if we ever get them back at all.  Waiting until they are in 8th or 9th grade is a huge mistake and leaves youth ministries hobbling.  I might add, there is nothing like having an excited 6th grader to energize your life, ministry, and church.

         [Saint Raphael’s where I am priest/We] sit[s] in a park with a major softball complex. There is a woman who says to me every time I see her, “I want to come to your parish, but my daughter is in softball and it is year round once she hit the sixth grade.” It is harder and harder to get people to come to church because Softball, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc., all are now scheduling games on Sunday mornings.

         It is not just the kids. We are guilty as well. Think of all the times that we have cancelled or begged out of Sundays and meetings because of things that really, we could have just excused ourselves or brought everyone with. I use these examples because they are the easiest and they cut to the heart of what Jesus is talking about today: our priorities and our allegiances.

         Scripturally, we are still stuck at the Pharisees banquet and I think someone is trying to change the subject. Once again, we need to see what happens before the section read for Mass today. Remember last week, Jesus is poking the Pharisees in the eye for claiming to be “holy leaders” who are having a banquet to entrap him so they can discredit him or kill him?   Someone in the group yells out, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” in verse 15.

         Rather than changing the subject, Jesus tells a parable about people who are invited to do what God wants (that is, invited to the banquet), but who come up with every lame excuse in the book: I have to go see a piece land I just bought, as if it couldn’t be looked at after the banquet. He owned it, did he not? Another says he bought five oxen and wants to try them out. That is the “I bought a new car/motorcycle and Sunday  morning is the best time to try it out because no one is on the road” excuse. And Sunday afternoon will not work? Then another said, “I just got married and cannot come” as if the wife is not able to come with. Basically, Jesus is showing the Pharisees how they, themselves, are creating all kinds of reasons not to do what God has called them to do. Jesus is sticking his finger in the eye of his hosts and then he does the unthinkable.

         He turns away from those with prestige, those with honor, those with standing and turns toward the rabble that followed him wherever he went. It is clear that the leaders will not receive his teaching because their commitments are not to the mission of God, their commitments are to building their organization and consolidating their power. It is symbolic because in the end, when Jesus dies on the Cross and rises again, he will open up the Covenant to accept not only Jews, but also Gentiles.

         He turns to the crowd and says something startling: unless you hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and life itself, you cannot be my disciple.  Whoa. Let’s step back here and take a breath, this is one reason why it is important to know the language. The word here is not extreme.  It is more like, “I hate chips,” or “I hate you when you do that.”  Here is hyperbole to say what Matthew says in 10:37 better, “Anyone who loves father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and life itself more than me is not worthy of me.”

         Jesus is a person and an ordering principle. He is with us and transforms us so that we don’t do the sinful activities we used to do. We don’t think about human beings like we used to do. We also, through our commitments to worship him every Sunday, tithe, read our Bibles daily, pray daily, and serve the church through at least one ministry, and go to confession at least once per month, we are in a process of transformation. Yet, if we do not say no to all these other obligations, we are no different than the rising 6th grader who innocently, well intentioned, and with a zest for life commits ourselves to things that take us away from Christ.

         Our life should be balanced with good eating, rest, play, work, service and most importantly from what Christ says, worship. When it is time to work, we say no to the others. When it is time to rest, we say no to the others. When it is time to eat, we say no to the others. When it is time to play we say no to the others. When it is time to serve, we say no to the others. When we begin to let what we prefer dominate what we need and should do, then we lose that balance and it can impact our lives negatively. It can impact our salvation negatively.

         Children who have the love of Jesus Christ throughout high school have mooring and a place to stand to endure just how mean junior high and high school can be. Think of your life, if you are not carrying your cross for Christ, then it is easy to get off base as to what your purpose is or think you are not good enough, worthy of love enough, or beautiful and/or handsome enough. Being a follower of Jesus means that you know when people get ugly about you carrying your Cross for Jesus that this is part of it. You expect the rejection and know you are not wrong. You know there is a resurrection after the Crucifixion and you know in whom you believe and you can withstand any storm.

         Yet, it is true, to follow Jesus is to put everything under him, under his teaching, and under his control. But we should also remember the one who is controlling is the one who gave up his life so we could live. He calls us to give up our lives so that we can live out that mission. So, we must measure the cost and decide. Am I going to put Christ first? Am I going to make him the priority? Now is a great time to make that commitment and on behalf of the Lord who gave his very life for you, I invite you to make a commitment to make your faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit your first priority. Amen.

This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated.  My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.

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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.

Mark Kurowski, M.Div.

Executive Director

Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian