The Real Love of Christ

Sep 10, 2019

Gospel Reflection, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Wisdom 9: 13-18b; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33

The Real Love of Christ

Can we both love and hate at the same time?  Our 4th commandment says that we should love and honor our parents.  Human nature teaches us that we should love our wives, our husbands and our children.  Hatred between our brothers and sisters certainly does not correspond to God’s will.  And yet Jesus tells us that we have to “hate” our father, mother, wife, and children, brothers and sisters if we want to be his  disciples. 

What is Jesus trying to say?  He is not preaching hatred, but trying to wake us up.  We are supposed to love our families but not to make a god or an idol out of them.  God comes before our own families, our parents, our spouses and our children.  And indeed God comes before ourselves.  I am not the ultimate standard, and the wishes and interest of the family are not the highest values there are.

Sometimes this truth is experienced painfully.  A young man or a young woman experiences a call to become a priest or a religious sister and yet the parents fight against this with all their might and reject their child because it would be a catastrophe for the family if their son or daughter chose such a calling.

In marriage, and even in friendship, there is sometimes a drama played out in which one spouse or friend becomes jealous of the other because God has taken first place in the other’s life.  Even the best marriage or friendship is no substitute for God, who should always take first place.  Yet, anyone who tries to live this out finds that God is not in competition with the spouse or friend and takes nothing away from the  relationship.  It can take a long time, however, before the other person discovers and realizes this truth.  For the other person trying to follow Jesus, the situation may become a real cross.  Maybe this is why Jesus uses such a harsh word here.

But more often, it is a challenge to allow God to govern our lives even when there is no family member to oppose us.  There are many things that clamor for our attention and draw our attention away from God as first in our lives.  Yet, Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s beautiful witness of offering everything, of leaving home and family, of making the meaning of her life to be the person of Jesus Christ, teaches us what union with God means.  She did not have resistance in her family when she became a sister.  And yet, as she loved everyone and especially the poorest of the poor as the person of Christ in disguise, her life was transformed and the whole world grew to listen to her. 

Let us ask for her intercession upon us.  Saint Teresa of Calcutta, help us to be able to leave everything to follow our Lord as you did!

Father Tony