Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen
September 4, 2016
Wisdom 9:13-18, Philemon 9:10, 12-17 Luke 14:24-33
"If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Sometimes my reaction to Jesus is, "Whoa! What are you talking about?" This pretty much sums up my initial response to the Scripture readings for this Sunday. Do you think maybe Jesus forgot the Commandment about honoring our fathers and our mothers? And now Jesus is telling me that I'm supposed to hate them. Sorry, and at least for me, I just can't do it. The earliest memories I have of my mother was her talking to me about God. She helped me fall in love with Jesus, reminding me over and over again that God was always present and that I could talk with God anytime. And I love my father. So often he comforted me in hard times, saw to it that we always got to Church and religious education classes on time, week after week. "Come on Jesus, how can I hate them? My parents are the very reason that I love you." Over the years, I've heard homilies that boil these verses down to, "Don't love your family or your life more than you love God." But that kind of talk leaves me unsatisfied. Love and hate are really strong words, and we have heard Jesus use them in ways that really get our attention. What Jesus is saying here is that we must love him in a way that is different from the way we love anyone or anything else. It's not that we love everyone and everything, and God is our favorite, the one we love best as if we are talking about flavors of ice cream.
Think of it this way, We are born into a community. Even in our mother's womb, we are in a unique relationship with her. In a slightly different way. We are also in a relationship with our father, and we are part of a human family. Yet, we are in a relationship with God even before we are conceived in our mother's womb. As God tells us, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." Just how long has our eternal God known and loved us? Yes, long before we were conceived, before the world began, before God said, "let there be light," we were known by God. How long will the Lord our God, who was, who is, and who is to come, know us? Well, the answer is quite simple, for all eternity. I admit it gets a bit tricky for those of us who exist in time and space to talk about God. Our words simply fall short.
What Jesus is saying is that our love for God must be our first love, yet not in such a way that what I love second is even anywhere close. My love for any human being, including myself, cannot come before my love for God. I cannot make idols of my relatives, politicians, or religious leaders. If I am to fully love others as God is calling me to do, then that love must flow from placing
Jesus at the center of my life, After all, my life can have only one center. And I simply cannot stand for anything or anyone to occupy it, other than God.