If today’s Gospel was a Twitter feed we would think that Jesus’ account was hijacked. After all, He is part of the Trinity which teaches to honor one’s mother and father. Here he says one must love Him and even if necessary hate mother and father. Yup, if he said someone hijacked his twitter feed most people would say, “Well that is pretty obvious.”
So, we can ask what he really means.
Misunderstanding this reading actually causes a lot of confusion and it is not because the reading is confusing, but it is ignored. This leads people to act horribly in the name of the Gospel, to mistreat and condemn people in the name of the Gospel. They do great violence to what is the Gospel of Christ which is love.
Let us look at how:
The Council of Trent teaches that the demand to love of God is unlimited—we love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength. Love of others is limited—we love others to the level we love ourselves.
The Second Vatican Council reminds us that our love of God must not be hindered by love of anything material or in the world including persons. We must love God first and then love others second, but we must love others because we love God.
The saints will tell you that we are called to love God by building the mindset of what pleases God, by getting to know the mind of God in such a way that we make choices that lead us to glorify him. You know how many times I tell that you it is not about good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell. It is deeper than that. If you seek just to be a good person, then that is not enough. God is calling you to live in such a way that He is glorified by your actions. That means that people know God through you. This is what Jesus did.
That does not mean that you need to be moving mountains and healing people, in fact that may not glorify God unless he wants you to do this. It means that everything you do is one that glorifies God. No one can do that without knowing and loving God. We need to be people of prayer, good prayer, prayer in which we develop an intimate relationship with God, in which we pray to God about all our issues, struggles, joys and sadness. We invite Him into every element of our lives and we ask him to guide us in everything we do.
Read the saints, you never read them saying, I do what I do because I live in terror of Hell. They actually use words like: I seek to please the Lord for whom I am grateful for all things.
Now let us bring this concept to the real world.
As you know I am a writer and that makes me a reader. I read all kinds of material including from critics of the faith to get a hand on how to communicate the faith to those who practice it and to those who most misunderstand it. Over the years, you learn of people who really commit themselves to a cause and they may do drastic things for that cause. Everything from laying down in front of a bulldozer to fasting for Thanksgiving to putting crosses on nuclear missile silos. Many of these people are not only not Catholic, they reject Catholic teaching and even live lifestyles that we as Catholics do not at all support. Now you might be saying: “Father we're not going to lay down in front of a bulldozer to prove that we love God.”
That's not what I'm asking you to do what I'm actually asking you to understand is here is there are those who basically do not like what we teach and maybe live lifestyles completely outside of our faith, yet are willing to put their lives on the line for what they believed.
How many people do not go to Mass because they are too busy, too tired, they have baseball practice, they have football practice, hockey, basketball, they want to read the Sunday newspaper they don't want to go to church, the crisis turned them away from Christ, they want to sleep in how many excuses can I give. When all is said and done the Lord would say to them “This guy doesn't even believe in the Eucharist, yet he gave everything he had for what he believes in and you ignore the reality of the Eucharist on Sunday which you claim to believe in.”
Now obviously, I am not talking about you, because you are here, but how many people do not go to Church who could? They may even call themselves Catholic, they don’t go to Church. God may invite the others ahead of them because they acted on their their beliefs.
Pope Pius V taught that the greatest evils of the world are due to lukewarm Catholics. St John Vianney said “how many faithless people are there who have forsaken their religion and yet they bear the name of Christian.”
If Jesus says that we must love him more than father and mother, which actually is hyperbole, then he says that our quest for holiness must be a higher priority than anything else. If people are not so much as attending Mass, then they are missing the point for everything else we believe.
The next time someone says to you, God is all merciful so he does not mind if I do not go to Mass so that I can go to name event here. You can say: “Sorry, Jesus never taught that and there are people who disagree with a lot of what we teach who will encounter God’s mercy quicker than you.”
Do you take all your joys, sadness, good times and bad into your prayer?
Reflect on why you go (or do not go) to Mass.
Photo: BabyRockRock [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]