Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

September 8, 2019 – (23ndSunday in Ordinary Time)

Wisdom 9:13-18b     Ps. 90:3-6, 12-14, 17     Philemon 9-10, 12-17     Luke 14:25-33

Introductory Comments

  • Today’s first scripture reading from Wisdom again calls us to humility before creation and to prayer for God’s Spirit of Wisdom to guide us into right paths. In the gospel, Jesus wants us to hear the seriousness and costs of discipleship.
  • In Laudato Sí and in the documents for the October Synod on the Amazon, the Church points out that what the world considers “development” and “progress” is based on the production and accumulation of wealth and material goods in ways that have often not reflected humility before creation or wisdom in its use. They have not shown understanding of or respect for the limits of Earth [recall Earth Overshoot Day]. They are threatening to destroy essential pillars supporting the Web of Life.
    • One clear example is the Amazonian rainforest. That rainforest produces more than 20% of the oxygen on Earth, something essential for the survival of much of the Web of Life. It produces up to 25% of the plants used in modern medicines. And it has an incredibly rich ecosystem with around 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 types of fish, 430 species of mammals, and 2.5 million different insects.
    • Nonetheless, human “development projects” in the name of “progress” have destroyed about 20% of the Amazon in the last 50 years. The destruction – for industrial-scale export agriculture, logging and cattle grazing – continues at the rate currently of 20,000 square miles a year. If that rate continues, the Amazon, a product of 50 million years of evolution, could be completely destroyed by the end of this century.
  • The documents preparing the Synod on the Amazon speak of these conceptions of “development” and “progress” as a new form of the colonialism that enslaved the indigenous peoples centuries ago and is in the process of enslaving the poor in our times.
  • To be asked to seriously rethink our assumptions about progress and development and to reinvent the vision of the future we hope and work for is Christ’s challenging, prophetic call to discipleship in today’s world.
  • As we begin the liturgy today, let us pray for humility before creation and God. Let us pray for the grace of what Pope Francis has called an integral ecological conversion and transformation of life. Let us pray for the gift of the Wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit.


Penitential Rite Suggestion

(It should be noted that although the Roman Missal gives various optional formulations for the penitential rite, it also allows for “other invocations. These are intended to help shape the community’s repentance” in accord with the scriptural message of the day.)

Today’s psalm marvels at the contrast between God’s life and human lives: “… a thousand years in Your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night.” We humans, by contrast, “are like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades.”

The author of the Book of Wisdom reminds us how little we know or understand unless God gives us wisdom and sends God’s Holy Spirit from on high.

Today we know that God’s life is immeasurable, extending beyond and embracing the nearly 13 billion 800 million years the universe, as we know it, has been evolving in unimaginable complexity and beauty through God’s creative work.

Let us allow that incredible reality to sink in. With a sense of profound awe, let’s enter into the quiet of our spirits, praying to see clearly the challenge and costs of discipleship to Christ Jesus and with courage to embrace them….     [silentpause]

  • Creator God, Mystery beyond human understanding, You have put us in the midst of Earth’s vast and wonderful Web of Life to care for it and to share it with all who live in it.

Creator Spirit of God, have mercy.

  • Christ Jesus, You invite us to discipleship in our times and demand that we are serious about knowing its costs and courageous in accepting them.

Word of God, have mercy.

  • Holy Spirit of God, we need Your wisdom to guide us in caring wisely and with love for creation and the great Web of Life in which we live and move and have our being.

Wisdom of God, have mercy.

May God, Creator of all cosmic time and space and the vast Web of Life in which we live, have mercy on us, free us from our sins, and guide us into the fullness of divine Life.                 Amen.


Points for Reflection on the Scriptures

  • In the gospel, Jesus demands to be first in the affections and commitments of his disciples. He requires careful calculation of the costs of discipleship and willingness to pay them, even to the point of renouncing or losing all their possessions.
    • We need to reflect on what this means in the complex ecological, social, economic, and cultural crisis facing the human community in these times. Pope Francis and the preparatory documents for the Synod on the Amazon speak of an integral ecological conversion that will transform our ways of living. It is characterized by:
      • A global vision that takes in the needs and dynamics of the whole Web of Life, the entire planet in this era that emphasizes “selfies,” self promotion and self interest.
      • Global solidarity in a time of nativism and nationalism, fear, distrust and hatred of the stranger, the other, a time of widespread resentment against globalization.
      • Working for more adequate understanding of all the links and destructive dynamics within the complex Web of Life that need to be addressed if the human community is to reverse climate change and overproduction and care wisely and sustainably for creation.
      • Renouncing consumerism, accumulation of goods and wealth; embracing simple lifestyles that prioritize and support human dignity and just relationships for all; and to do these in the face of a destructive global economy that prioritizes and requires ever-greater material growth and accumulation by the very way it is structured.
      • Working to overcome the widespread inequality in the human community where the wealthiest 1% of its 7 billion people control more than half of all wealth, 10% live in absolute poverty [set at less than $1.90 a day], nearly half on less than $5 a day and 1 person out of every 9 goes to bed hungry.
        • What do you see as the most important costs of discipleship of Christ for you at this time? What are the most challenging costs?
        • What elements of an integral ecological conversion do you feel drawn to and able to embrace and live right now?
        • What steps might you take to prepare yourself to embrace this discipleship more fully?
  • Paul’s letter to Philemon about his former slave, Onesimus, urges Philemon to welcome Onesimus back “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a brother” in the faith.
    • The healing and proper care of creation, our Common Home, calls for overcoming the colonial attitudes that enslaved indigenous peoples, ignoring their wisdom about the Web of Life we are part of.
    • The documents in preparation for the Synod on the Amazon acknowledge that the Church must convert from its colonial attitudes by seeking encounter and respectful dialogue with the indigenous peoples of the Amazon as brothers and sisters in the faith to form integral communities with perspectives of global solidarity.
      • Are there ways that you can participate in that kind of cross-cultural dialogue? Do you believe there is important wisdom to be received from peoples with traditions and ways of relating to creation long presumed to be backward or primitive by the dominant technocratic culture? How might you do that?
      • How must you change your beliefs about what authentic human progress and development mean and how to achieve them?
      • How can you contribute to bringing about more just and universal ways of thinking about, valuing, and working for authentic human progress and development? What changes will they demand in you?


General Intercessions Petition

  • That we may grow in consciousness of the great gift of the vast cosmic creation and all of its elements, we pray…
  • That we may grow in awe of its Creator and of the discipleship Christ is calling us to in these times, we pray…
  • That we may deepen our gratitude for nature’s rich Web of Life within which we live and that we may grow in openness to wiser and more just ways of caring for it and sharing it, we pray…



James E. Hug, S.J.