Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Wis 9:13-18b Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17, Phmn 9-10, 12-17, Lk 14:25-33
Colditz POW Camp
Early in World War II, the Germans near Calais, France captured Captain Pat Reid, an officer in the British Army. He was sent to a German Prisoner of War camp, where he escaped by digging a tunnel out under the fence. Unfortunately he was caught and sent to a special POW Camp at Colditz Castle.
All POWs have a duty to try to get home. At Colditz Castle Captain Reid was made the Escape Officer by the SBO. His job was to coordinate all escape attempts from the prison camp so that they would succeed and not undermine one another. As escape officer he helped men escape by cutting through the floor of the 2nd floor theater that lay over the German barracks – then the men marched out of the German side of the prison disguised as a German officer. They also dug tunnels, leaped over walls, hid in trash piles, or mattresses or boxes. The prisoners used ingenuity and determination get out of Colditz, and their efforts were rewarded with several “Home Runs” – men who escaped to Switzerland.
The Gospel today challenges us in our commitment to following Christ as His disciples. Jesus is on “The Way” to Jerusalem, where He knows that He is going to suffer and die to bring salvation to all of mankind. Jesus turns to the crowd, to us and challenges us with our commitment to follow him. Like Captain Reid, we need to have determination and ingenuity to escape from the prisons of sin in our life.
Sin is our prison.
Sin is a prison because it limits our ability to choose freely. If I have an addiction, can I truly choose to smoke a cigarette, or to have a bottle of beer. No – I am not freely choosing it, rather I am driven to do it by my addiction.
Jesus confronts His disciples (us) today to deal with the things that are keeping them from the Kingdom of God. In the Gospel Jesus uses three different parables as a way of asking us the question – “Do you have what it takes to be a follower of Jesus? Can you carry your cross?”
Parable 1 – Hate your Family - Do not let obstacles stand in the way of your pursuit of God?
Is Jesus encouraging us to hate or family? Of Course Not! Our entire relationship with God is familial. We relate to God the Father through Christ our Brother – His only Son. Jesus is saying don’t let your family stand in the way of your coming to know God.
So what does this mean? How does this play out in our lives? For some, it is a direct obstacle. I have known converts to Catholicism whose families opposed their becoming Catholic. This is indeed a very difficult cross to bear. It takes a special grace, courage and conviction to persevere in these circumstances.
There is another way that family can become an obstacle for our relationship with God. Family, especially the relationship between parents and children forms the foundation for how we come to understand the Father and the Son. If we grew up in a family where we suffered from Divorce, or abuse then this becomes an obstacle for how we understand God.
The root question behind this first parable is what obstacles, what things am I attached to more than God. Another way that we can ask ourselves this question is to ask “What is my favorite Sin?”
Parable 2 – Build the whole tower - Have the determination to see the task to completion.
The man building the tower did not have the resources to see the job to the finish. The job at hand is the life of the disciple that ends in Heaven. One of the spiritual lessons here is to persist in your determination to get the job done. The POW’s at Colditz prison just would not give up. Every time they failed to escape they treated as a learning experience, and went to work on next avenue for escape.
Another way of asking the question is do we have discipline in our spiritual life? What are the ways that we quit pursuing Christ early, and fall back into our rut of sin? Discipline is one of the key ways that we have to see the job through to the end. Discipline is building a habit of spending time with Jesus – and it will get us through the tough times and allow God the opportunity to work in our lives one day at a time.
Recently Time Magazine published an article about the life of Mother Theresa, where they revealed that for the last fifty years of her ministry she felt no connection with God. The article asked the question – How did she do it? The answer is discipline rooted in her knowledge of the love that God had for Her.
Parable 3 – Know your own strength in the battles you face.
The third parable that Christ gives is that of a King going to war. When we are out-numbered we need God’s grace – his help. To help us in this perseverance we have two special sacraments for being “On the Way”. Confession and the Eucharist. We come to mass every week to be nourished by the Word of God made Flesh – the Holy Eucharist – which contains within it the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is food for the journey – and through it our soul is strengthened to live a good and holy life. The other gift that we have for the way is the sacrament of Reconcilliation. This is one area where we as Catholics are weak in our journey, weak in our perseverance. A recent survey indicated that 54% of all Catholics attend reconciliation rarely or never. This means that most of us here today have not been to confession in any recent amount of time. Why?
A way we can do this on our own this week is to find time to go to a daily mass this next week, or make a point of going to confession, and getting rid of the prison of sin in your life.
Take up your cross and follow me.
Each of these parables reminds us of the seriousness of our vocation as Christians to carry the cross with sacrificial love. The Cross is the plan of action that God gave us to escape the prison of Sin in our lives. Taking up the cross means to embrace a life of love, a life of healing and a life of sacrificial love.
For Captain Reid and his fellow POWs their cross was to spend their lives planning and preparing with all of the determination and cunning that they could find waiting for the right moment to escape to freedom in Switzerland. After two and a half years Captain Reid succeeded and walking across the Swiss border on the 18th of September, 1942.
We too must embrace the cross and spend our lives escaping from the captivity of sin for the freedom of Gods love. We must be resourceful Christians, and use every tool at our disposal to escape from the prison of Sin. Jesus is encouraging us today to escape the prison of sin and to score a “Home Run”.