The Gospel according to Matthew (10:34 + 11:1)
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple– Amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.
Opening Prayer: Lord of All, You call all people to love You with all of their mind, heart, soul and strength. You call us all to adhere to every truth that You have spoken
Encountering Christ: At first read, this appears to be a difficult teaching or harsh words from of our Lord. But when properly understood, it is clear that it helps us keep our relationships in check with God and with our family properly ordered. Following this command will never result in a lack of love for family; rather, it will help us to love solely with the heart of Christ.
What does this teaching of Jesus require of us? Simply put, if a family member, or anyone else, imposes expectations on us that are contrary to the will of God, then we must choose the will of God over those other expectations. To understand this more clearly, think about how one might choose to love “father or mother” or “son or daughter” more than God. Say, for example, that a child chooses to go astray in their moral or faith life, and they want their parents to support them in their sin. But the parents remain firm in their moral convictions and, out of love, offer no support for the immoral lifestyle their child has chosen. This will become especially difficult for the parents if the child becomes angry and criticizes the parents, with the claim that the parents are being judgmental and are lacking in love. What the child is actually requesting is “Mom and dad, you must love me more than God and His laws.” And if the parents do not support their child’s misguided lifestyle, the relationship may be deeply wounded.
Allow me to give a real example of this scenario that I just described. One year ago, my daughter announced that she was leaving home on her 18th birthday. She wasn’t only leaving home, but she was going to live with someone we never met or even heard of. Well, you can imagine the myriad of emotion that not only myself, but the rest of the family went through. We knew of the bad things that she was doing and all we could think about was that they would escalate into something worse. The other thing that we were worried about was her safety and security because we had no clue where she was going. For whatever reason, she was leaving a secured and safe home and choosing to live some other way. We didn’t understand that and probably still don’t, but we were not going to accept the sin that she was going to encounter. As a parent, it is hard to accept the Will of God over our children but maybe there is some lesson for us to learn? Or maybe there is some kind of resolution that is agreeable to all of us? We are not here to judge but here to love. And with that love we could find a common path to allow that love to grow. My daughter loved to do things that I did, and we always had a blast doing it together. Perhaps we could see past the things we did wrong and find that joy once again.
This is one of the reasons that Jesus followed this command by saying, “and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Love always involves the Cross. At times, it is a cross of personal self-sacrifice and self-giving. And at other times, it’s a cross by which our love is misunderstood, and we are deemed as “unloving” by those we actually love the most. When parents truly love their child, they will care first and foremost for their child’s eternal salvation and moral living, and they will not choose “friendship” with their child over truth.
Of course, this same truth applies to every relationship we will have and even to our “relationship” to society as a whole. More and more, there are those who demand of us all that we support them in behaviors that are objectively disordered and contrary to the will of God. We are told that if we oppose these choices that some make, then we are judgmental and hateful. But this is exactly what Jesus is speaking about. If we choose to “love” others more than God and His holy will, meaning, if our first priority is to make people “feel” supported in the immoral and confused decisions they make, then we are not actually loving them at all. At least not with the love of God. Instead, we are prioritizing their sin over the truth they so deeply need to know so as to be set free and to enter into an authentic relationship of love with the God of Truth.
Closing Prayer: Holy Father, give me the courage and love I need to not only love You above all but to also love others with Your love alone. Help me to embrace Your Cross when this is difficult so that I will be a better instrument of the love You have for all. Jesus, I trust in You.
Action of the Day: Pray for families that lose their children to societal pressure.