Wait…what? I am obviously not a biblical scholar, so when I rolled out of bed this morning and read our readings for the day, that line from the Gospel was a bit of an eye opener. So because I am not the biblical scholar, I have a blog (I read) from Bishop Robert Barron that helps me to understand the Gospel; this comes to me in my email every day of the week. Here is what he wrote about today’s Gospel…
Friends, in our Gospel today the Lord offers one of the greatest, most “slap you in the face” challenges he ever offered. “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother…and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
There is the great spiritual principle that undergirds the entire Gospel: detachment. The heart of the spiritual life is to love God and then to love everything else for the sake of God. But we sinners, as St. Augustine said, fall into the trap of loving the creature and forgetting the Creator. That’s when we get off the rails.
We treat something less than God as God—and trouble ensues. And this is why Jesus tells his fair-weather fans that they have a very stark choice to make. Jesus must be loved first and last—and everything else in their lives has to find its meaning in relation to him.
In typical Semitic fashion, he makes this point through a stark exaggeration: “Unless you hate your mother and father, wife and children, sisters and brothers….” Well yes, hate them in the measure that they have become gods to you. For precisely in that measure are they dangerous.
My wife has always told our children, surround yourself with good, faithful people and you yourself will be good and faithful. So who in your life is that example of a true disciple of Jesus? Who is it that shows you what the true love of Christ should be? I have a number of them.
Growing up it was my parents – Jack and Judy. Thinking back, they didn’t attend Sunday Mass with each other very often (they each had their favorite time to go) but come hell or high water, they were in church every Sunday morning – matter of fact, they were in the same pew every Sunday morning. That was the their faith – they kept holy the Sabbath. It wasn’t enough for them that you went with them to Mass; if you went to Mass and did not actively participate in the prayers – you brought the Missalette home and wrote the prayers and readings for the day before you went outside to join in whatever the neighborhood activity of the day was. If you decided to cut up (not behave appropriately) during Mass, you came home and knelt on the hard kitchen floor for a while. Even when we were older and went to Mass on our own – we had better come home with the weekly bulletin to prove we went or Mom was not going to be happy with us. (More the art of grabbing a bulletin in a later post.)
So why would my Mom and Dad MAKE us go to Mass. Now that I am an adult and have tried to form my children much in the same manner my parents formed me, I believe they understood it was their responsibility to teach us how important God should be in our lives. They made me go to Mass on Sunday, they made me go to Catholic schools for 12 years. I may not have appreciated all that they sacrificed for me to do that back then, but I sure do now. It was their discipline, their faithfulness to God, it was their patience in my religious formation that is the bedrock on which I proudly profess and practice my faith today. They placed God’s interest in me above my interest in myself and now I fully appreciate the true gift that gave me growing up…I have learned to love God, trust in God, place God’s will for me above my will for me.
As much as my parents formed me, it is my wife who has truly taught me love of God before love of anything else. On our wedding day, I offered a toast to my wife and I share that toast to all of you today. It is through my wife Sarah that I am able to see God myself. This woman puts here love for God, her love for Jesus and the Holy Spirit far ahead of her love for anything else – including Rich and Charlie’s Pommadoro!! She has been my rock of faith and has helped my love of God, my love of the Catholic faith grow deeper and deeper everyday I am with her. Her life and her schedule is formed around the good of the Church. One quick example. Years ago Sarah and I and our closest friends decided to spend a weekend deep in the woods of Bourbon, MO. We left on a Friday afternoon but the agreement made with Sarah was to leave early enough on Sunday to come back in time catch a late Mass – Sarah never missed Mass on a weekend. I was working the graveyard shift for a company at the time, so Sarah agreed to drive home. Those of you who drive highway 44 know that there are 2 exits for highway 100 – one that will take you through Washington, New Haven, Hermann and another that will take you up through Grey Summit and onto Manchester Road (for you out of towners, these are all in the beautiful state of Missouri). I was asleep in the car (as I always am) when Sarah woke me to up to tell me that we were almost home. Well not quite. She had taken the wrong exit and we were almost to Hermann, MO. Not wanting to double back, we went up to Highway 70 and on into St. Louis from there. Needless to say what should have been an hour to an hour and a half drive turned into about 4 hours. Also, needless to say, we missed Mass on that Sunday. Sarah was not a happy camper (pun fully intended) but she did not leave it at that. When she got home, she called over to her home parish, asked if she could come by and at least receive communion and go to confession because it was her fault that we missed Mass. That is my wife and that is why I love her deeply. God is first, God is foremost, God is great in her life. She is like the perfect window I can look through and always find God.
Now after typing this, I can say Sarah is my clarification on the “harsh” words of the Gospel this morning. They aren’t harsh, they are wise and we should follow them.
Do something great for our Lord today – place Him above all in your life; love Him above all in your life.
God’s will, not mine, be done.
Be not afraid; just have faith.
Jesus, I trust in You.