23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Wisdom 9:13-28b; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33
September 3-4, 2022
If I were to give a title to my homily today, I guess it would be Cheap Faith. This is an adaptation of the phrase cheap grace, coined by Dietrich Bonheoffer, a Lutheran minister who was killed by the Nazis for opposing Hitler during World War II.
I especially direct my remarks to all the young people. I am thinking about all of you who are in your twenties and thirties. I am now in my late sixties. I have never lost his faith in God or in the Church, but for decades I settled for cheap faith, and I would like to spare you all those years of mediocrity before beginning to live a costly faith and meaningful lives. It took me until I was about 55 years old to do so.
For those of you older, like me, it is never too late to start.
Imagine three young men standing before God. All three are good men. All three have faith. They believe in God and want to live a good life and go to heaven after death. Each of them is blessed. They have good wives and children. They live in a free country. They enjoy fairly good health. They have decent incomes, and so on. But each feels a certain burden on his shoulders. Each feels a responsibility for all those people and to make good use of their gifts. Each realizes that in order to leave this world in peace and enter heaven in glory, he has to leave everything behind someday and this bothers him because he is attached to all his blessings and gifts. So each makes a decision, but each man responds differently.
Gentleman number one can’t seem to let go. He intends to build that tower someday. He intends to fight that battle. He just doesn’t get around to it. It is a rather daunting idea, and it seems like something difficult. Isn’t on the priority list. He has a lot of other things to do with life and responsibilities. He holds on to wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life… all the good gifts given to him. “They are mine after all. I possess them,” he thinks. “Maybe someday I will have to let them go, but not now.” This man has Cheap Faith.
Gentleman number two does get around to it, he thinks. He puts a plan together. He sees in those gifts a call to advance the Gospel and God’s glory. He realizes those gifts are meant to give honor and glory to God by improving humanity. So he makes a blueprint to build his tower; he draws up a battle plan to fight the battle. His plan! He is going to implement his blueprint and his battle plan and he expects God to approve his plan. This man builds and fights in an admirable way, but in a way which enables him to retain control of the blessings and gifts that have been given to him. He wants to manage his wife and his family, his home and his assets. “They are mine after all. I possess them. I have worked hard for them” he thinks. “God will certainly approve of my admirable plans.” This man too has Cheap Faith.
Gentleman number three recognizes all the blessings and good things that have been given to him are meant to bring God greater honor and glory, and he is grateful for them. He realizes they were given to him to be enjoyed in this life, and to be relinquished, if necessary, to bring about God’s greater honor and glory. So he decides he will give them all up, or he will retain them, whatever God wants; whichever way brings about greater honor and glory to God. Keeping or letting go are both fine as long as it is fine with God. He is willing to keep them or let them go, whatever is necessary to bring about God’s plan for him, and them, and for the world. So he asks God to show him the blueprints for the tower, to show him the battle plan God has in mind. His plan will be God’s plan. All this man wants to know is the plan. He knows that in this way, he and his wife and children, his parents and relatives will share in God’s glory and honor when they entered eternal life. He does not cling to his blessings and gifts. He is a free man. He does whatever God wants. He even carries a cross. This man has Costly Faith.
Which of these three men are you? Which will you become? Which approach are you taking in your life? Do you have cheap faith or costly faith? How is your tower to be built and battle fought? We want to fight the battle or build the tower —we are good people and well-intentioned after all— but are we too attached to our gifts? Sometimes we even reject and abuse the gifts given to us. We don’t want to carry a cross. We want cheap faith. We try to get God and others to agree with our construction plan or battle strategy that will allow us to hang on to what we have, telling God and others to make the investment for us so we can control our assets. We want a cheap faith, not a costly faith. We think we possess our wives, children, and parents rather than seeing them as God’s people and we mere custodians.
The point is we must come to where we let go and let God. The point is not to give away everything we have in some rash plan; rather it is to follow God’s plan for our lives and the people He has put into our lives. We let go when we must, and retain when asked. We need to let God be in charge. We need to be willing to let everything be in God’s hands. In that way we need to pay the high price of faith and live in gratitude.
We can have a sort of holy indifference if we believe in God. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about our families or responsibilities. It means we realize we don’t own them and we can see in our wives and families the glory of God in this life. Guys, have you ever looked at your wives and families that way? We don’t own our wives or our children. Ultimately, all that is good is God’s, gifts from God. Our blueprints and our battle plans and those of God must be in alignment. We must let go and let God.
In the very end, cheap faith will cost us everything, only in ways we do not want. Costly faith will give us everything. Choose costly faith now. Do not wait. Trust in God. Enjoy what God has given to you, but be ready to let go when He asks.