My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We are praying for many intentions this Sunday.
First, today is September 8th, so it is the birthday of the Virgin Mary Our Blessed Mother. So we rejoice for that and we give thanks to God. Because through Mary we have Jesus, and he is our light, our salvation and our peace.
We are also praying for peace this weekend, in union with Pope Francis and the whole universal Church. Yesterday, we observed a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and Middle East, especially.
And today we want to continue praying in that spirit — for peace. For peace in our hearts and peace in our world.
We need to seek new paths to peace in our world and to put an end to violence in our neighborhoods and communities. Where there is no love, we need to put love. Where there is no justice, we need to promote human dignity and human rights. And where there is no peace, we need to build trust and the sense of forgiveness.
And finally today, we are praying for immigration reform in our country, at the request of my brother bishops in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. There are masses celebrated in 22 States today to pray for immigration reform.
We need to pray for ourselves and for our leaders in Congress today! This is a difficult issue. And good people disagree. We all agree that our immigration system is broken — and that many people are suffering because of it. Nobody disagrees about that. But what we are having a hard time in Washington trying to figure out how to fix this system in a way that promotes justice
My brothers and sisters, for me, immigration reform is not only about politics and economics. It is a spiritual and moral issue. It is about our relationships with God and about our relationships with our neighbors who are our brothers and sisters. It is a question of what it means to say that we are followers of Jesus Christ.
So the readings we have just heard this morning are appropriate about the demands of Christian discipleship. Our Gospel reading today, in particular, is very challenging.
Jesus is asking us to put God above every human relationship — even our relationships in our families. He is telling us that following him will have a cost, a price. That it takes sacrifice. We have to give up some possessions and some of the “attachments” and comforts that we cling to.
Jesus doesn’t ask the same thing from every person. But he does ask something from everyone. He has a mission for each of us. That’s what he’s talking about today.
So he is challenging us today to let go of things and give our lives to him. We need to let him be in charge. We need to let him set the agenda. That takes humility. Because it means we have to trust in his love and build our lives on the foundation of his love.
Our first two readings today are also challenging. From the Book of Wisdom, we are asked to know God’s counsel. And if we follow this wisdom, we will be on the straight path for our lives.
Then in the second reading St. Paul was asking Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother.
The point for us, my brothers and sisters, is that our Christian faith calls us to see things in a different light. We are called to see everything and everybody in the light of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
As Christians, we have to think with the mind of Christ.2 We can’t think just in the categories of our culture, or in terms only of politics or law.
If we are following Jesus, then we need to see the world as Jesus sees the world. We need to see other people, as Jesus sees them. As brothers and sisters. As children of God.
In God’s eyes we’re all his beloved sons and daughters and no one is a stranger to any of us. No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we got here.
We need to remember that when we are talking about immigrants — we are talking about husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. All with their own stories to tell. All with dreams for their lives and for their children’s lives.
So this week let’s keep praying for immigration reform that respects human dignity and the deepest promises of our nation’s traditions of freedom and justice for all. Let’s also keep praying for peace, beginning in our own hearts.
And on this birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us ask her to help us to see with the eyes of Jesus — so that we can know his wisdom and follow him with deeper faith and love.
1. Readings (Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C): Wisd. 9:13-18; Ps. 90:3-6, 12-17; Phil. 1:9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33.
2. 1 Cor. 2:16.