23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C
“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.” This is no one’s favorite Gospel passage. No one has this quote on an inspirational poster in their bedroom. No one has ever chosen this for the Gospel at their wedding. (That would be awkward.) And we should be clear that Jesus does not want us to hate our family. If I am sure of anything, I am sure that Jesus loved his mother.
Yet, when we hear such jarring and harsh language, it is so that everyone gets the point. Jesus wants to be first in our lives. He wants to be the very center of our lives. It is not that he is jealous of others we love, but he knows for us to reach our true and astounding capabilities, we will only be our best when he comes first. Indeed, rather than trying to love God as much as we love our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands and children. We should love all those God has given us how God has loved us.
This has been brought to mind by the college admissions scandal where wealthy parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their kids into the right school. It made me think of something I have heard often from parents, and I know it comes from a good place, but they say, “I would do anything for my children.” Don’t do anything for your children. Only do what is right and good loving. That is what you owe your children.
Putting Christ first in our lives is the only way to guarantee we love in the best and most effective way possible. There are a few reasons why this is the best way to love. Actually, I am sure there are infinite reasons, but long blogs are boring blogs so we will stick with three.
First, by putting Jesus first you ensure that you will not be lost in love. Lost in love is a fine romantic term, but it is full of danger. We should not be lost in love, but we find who we are in love. When we lose ourselves to someone else and the relationship fails, we have no sense of dignity left. We heap shame and guilt upon ourselves until we feel unvalued and unlovable. Yet, when we begin with the love of Jesus, we bask in a light that never fades. We will still make mistakes and hurt and be hurt, but we will not give up on ourselves for we know that our God never gives up on us. God’s love indeed allows us to attempt repair whatever is broken.
Secondly, putting Jesus first means to cross will always be part of our love. At a time when suffering is discounted and when hurt does not seem compatible with love, we need the cross to remind us that love means suffering from the moment we say yes to love, we say yes to vulnerability and risk a broken heart. Real love, Christ love, understands and accepts this because Jesus understood and accepted it. Jesus did not go to the cross because he failed to love. He suffered because he loved perfectly and fully. It is the promise of our salvation, the witness of love perfect love. And so will our relationships be transformed by the cross when we accept of our suffering and sacrifices as the heart of love for every cross is the pathway of redemption.
And finally, well at least for this blog, putting the love of Jesus Christ first means our love is always good and genuine. Simply giving everyone what they want is not loving. It is indulgent; it is bribery. Real love is concerned about true growth and not taking advantage. Real Christ centered love touches not just the people in relationship, it is a gift to the community. To love as Christ loved is to us the word “No” or share a hard word in true friendship. True love point is not a broad path but a narrow way. It points to God.
We know what real love looks like because we have seen it perfected in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, The way I see it, I could love people in my life with Bob love, and that is not bad. Or I could love them with Christ’s love. Why not give the best?