Jesus demands a total dedication to Him alone and asks that we renounce ourselves. If this sounds scary, that's because it is.
We cling to ourselves and to our life, out of the fear that renouncing ourselves will cause us to lose everything. But we must let go of that fear because only by renouncing ourselves do we gain everything - Jesus, God Himself, the giver of Eternal Life.
Jesus demands total dedication to Him and to Him alone. Only God can ask for that kind of allegiance and St. Clare of Assisi exemplifies that total allegiance. She renounced her family, her physical beauty, her money, and her future in society in order to have one thing, Jesus Christ.
If we are to follow Jesus, He asks that our discipleship is total, radical, and forever. In short, we must renounce ourselves.
Renouncing ourselves is difficult. We cling to ourselves and to our life, out of this fear - "If I renounce myself, I'm going to lose everything." We must let go of that fear, because we cannot give ourselves eternal life. The way of all flesh is death. By renouncing ourselves and taking up the cross, we gain Jesus - God himself, the giver of Eternal Life.
Monsignor’s Homily Notes
23rd Sunday in OT (C)
Christ the King Parish, Milwaukie (2019)
St. Clare of Assisi (or “Chiara” as she’s called in Italian) was a beautiful and graceful young woman, the daughter of a noble family in Assisi. No doubt, she had a bright, comfortable future ahead of her in the eyes of her family and the world. Chiara was also friends with a guy named “Francesco”, St. Francis of Assisi, and that made all the difference. At age 19 she ran away from home one night to St. Francis’ church where he lived with his new Franciscan community. The meeting had been prearranged. The brothers met her at the door of the church with lighted tapers, like those awaiting a bride. She entered the church, cut off her long and beautiful hair as a sign of her renunciation of the world and its vanity, promised herself to Jesus has His spouse, and put on the rough, brown habit of St. Francis and his followers to begin a great spiritual adventure.
Francis arranged for her to live in a local convent until he could build her one of her own. Her family was outraged and actually went to the convent to “rescue” her. But Clare stood her ground, so strong was she in renouncing everything that would keep her from totally committing herself to her one love, Jesus Christ. St. Francis and the brothers built her a convent where she began a life of poverty and contemplative prayer, and attracted many other young women to this life, beginning the Order of Poor Clare nuns. Her example was so powerful that eventually her mother and two of her sisters joined her. In Assisi you can still visit her convent and the community of nuns. There are Poor Clare communities in 26 states of the USA.
Because of the degree of her renunciation which inflamed her deep love of God, Clare became a spiritual force in Italy. Even the Pope came to visit her on her deathbed. She renounced her family, her physical beauty, her money, and her future in society in order to have one thing: Jesus.
“Unless you renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”
Right now Jesus is popular with the crowds. But to avoid any misunderstanding, Jesus turns to the crowd and tells them what it means to follow him. Jesus demands TOTAL dedication to Him and Him alone. Only God can ask for this kind of allegiance. This is a moment when we are forced into a rational assessment of Jesus’ claim: He is either a liar, madman or who He says He is. Jesus’ teaching deepens what He told us in the Old Testament: “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength.” He is telling us that we are not the disciples of Drake, Jeff Bezos, Tom Brady, or anyone else, especially ourselves. We love our family dearly, but we must love Jesus more. We only feel the bite of Jesus’ words when we truly do love our family, but nothing, nothing is to come between our lives and the Lord. Possessions, even relationships are renounced.
Following Jesus is not to be short lived: “Yeah I’ll follow you for a while.” It’s forever. It’s not to be conditional “I’ll follow you if…” It’s radical. Following Jesus is not partial: “I’ll only follow this teaching of yours but not that.” It’s total because divine love is forever, radical and total. We struggle in responding to His call because if we’re honest sometimes our discipleship is short lived, conditional and partial. We need help.
To take up our cross and have complete dedication to the Lord, we need Wisdom from on high. If we think in worldly terms, we will never renounce ourselves. The world, especially the entertainment culture, always says “Be selfish. Renouncing yourself is crazy and stupid.” Not only that but deep within ourselves isn’t there a desire to cling to ourselves? to not fully surrender to the Lord? that fear “I’ll lose everything if I renounce myself?” Actually that attitude is absurd because we cannot give ourselves eternal life. The way of all flesh is death, all flesh. So why cling to ourselves? By renouncing ourselves and taking up the Cross as it enters our life, we can gain Jesus, God Himself, the giver of eternal life. Through divine Wisdom we can see that in this renunciation of myself and following Christ, I gain everything. Renouncing ourselves isn’t stupidity; it’s wise.
And Jesus doesn’t ask us to do something that he himself hasn’t already done. That’s the attractiveness of His call: He is calling us to follow Him, to come after Him. He is already in front of us and with us. Jesus as the Son renounced everything. Complete and total devotion to the Father and his will had, for Jesus, an absolute value, preferring it to all else, even his own life. The Christian life is to allow the life of Christ to take hold of us, to allow His life, death and resurrection to enter into us. We do this together as members of His Body, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and as a parish, which is an instance of that universal Church. We are to help each other carry our crosses, which is nothing else than our share of Jesus’ Cross that He gives us. We do this together as a parish.
To help our parish grow more deeply in the life of Christ, our Pastoral Council has formulated our new 3 year plan. Hopefully you have read through it on the website. If This plan has been the fruit of prayer, discussion and discernment of the members of the Pastoral Council this past year. The Pastoral Plan is published on the website for easy access and updates and to save printing costs. The new Plan builds upon the previous one, incorporates the Archdiocesan Pastoral Priorities delineated by Archbishop Sample (as they apply here at Christ the King), as well as adds some priorities specific to our parish. It’s essential to realize that our parish is not an isolated silo but an integral member of ecclesial communion in union with our local Shepherd, thereby uniting us to the other parishes and to the universal Church.
The categories are: Catechesis and Faith Formation; Divine Worship, Marriage and Family Life; Youth/Young Adult Ministry & Vocations; Works of Mercy; Parish-School Integration; Facility & Safety Improvements. Each category contains specific goals and has a member of the Pastoral Council assigned to it who will serve as a “Champion”, overseeing and reporting the realization of those goals. Of course, this plan cannot be realized without your help, first of all through your prayers. Secondly, we need your participation to be the Lord’s hands and feet in realizing these goals. I would ask you to ask Jesus in prayer where He would like you to serve and to contact that Champion to help. Opportunity to volunteer next weekend! Be involved in some way; there is something for everyone.
St. Clare was like us. Her life is not beyond us. She realized that Jesus was everything and decided to act on it with the help of His grace. We can do the same. In fact, the Lord stands ready to give us all the strength we need to renounce ourselves and follow Him. And if we renounce ourselves as she did, if we can take up our cross and follow Jesus, we can embark on a great spiritual adventure.
Think of Jesus asking you with his dark, flashing, piercing and loving eyes. What is keeping you from following me totally? What in your life needs to be renounced? Jesus, God the Son, renounced himself to save us. St. Clare of Assisi renounced herself, took up her cross and followed Him, and became a great saint. We can too.