September 8, 2013 –– Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
All of the readings for this 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time caution us that living lives of stewardship, being a disciple of Christ, is not necessarily simple or trouble-free. We must always keep in mind the announcement in Matthew 19:26 “With God all things are possible.” That would be an appropriate title for today’s readings.
The first reading from the Book of Wisdom (recall that this Old Testament Book is sometimes called the Wisdom of Solomon, as it is purported to be series of prayers and statements by Solomon) addresses the difficulty we have as humans discerning what God’s will is, what certain occurrences in our lives mean from the perspective of God. The basic meaning of this reading is that our wisdom is limited, especially without God’s help.
This does not mean we cannot discover truth, but it does mean that to discover truth we must accept the fact that we need God’s assistance. One of the keys to wisdom — to stewardship and discipleship — is knowing that wisdom became flesh in Jesus Christ.
St. Paul’s letter to Philemon, from which the second reading is drawn, is well known in part because it is the third shortest Book in the Bible with only 445 words (2 and 3 John are shorter with 299 and 303 words respectively). Philemon, to whom the letter is addressed, was a leader of the Church in Colossae, and someone whom Paul had personally evangelized. As with the other two readings Paul reminds Philemon that it is only through “possessing” Christ that they both can serve and have faith.
The Gospel from Luke makes it apparent that to follow Jesus will require sacrifice. The Lord says in effect that if you wish to gain all (eternal life with Him) you must be prepared to give all. One of the maxims applicable to stewardship is that we can never outgive God. “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” Luke 6:38
Yet, living lives of discipleship and stewardship might be filled with challenges and uneasiness. Jesus points out that we may come in conflict with our own families; that we must carry Crosses just as He does. In the final reckoning we must be prepared for a wide range of struggles if are to follow Him as good stewards. This reflects the implications found in the first two readings — namely, that we cannot be successful as disciples without the Lord’s help.
A morning prayer attributed to St. Patrick states, in part, “I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me… through God’s might to uphold me… through God’s wisdom to guide me… and through God’s word to speak for me.” Being a steward is a joy, but it is only achievable with God’s support.