The Gospel for July 2nd, 2017: “The Conditions of Discipleship”
Reflection: Being Rightly Ordered
Jesus said to his apostles:
“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 (37-38).
There was a time when lines like this from Jesus would have bothered me a lot. How can Jesus, who talks so much about love, criticize a person for loving family members? I might have given up quickly on understanding and assumed they were some part of the divine mystery not meant to be understood or are unclear because they come from a different time and place. However, today I think I do understand Jesus’s point.
I have received Bishop Robert Barron’s daily reflections (https://www.wordonfire.org)on the gospel through e-mail for at least a year. Many times he has written that the teaching of Jesus is showing us how to be rightly ordered to God, just as Mosaic law was given to Israel by God to teach them how to be rightly ordered in the Old Testament. What Bishop Barron means by ‘rightly ordered’ is proper worship, not for God’s sake—He doesn’t need our worship—but for our own positioning to receive God’s love. As every Christian knows, it can be difficult to be a disciple and at odds the world. I imagine for first century Jews it would be even more difficult to be at odds with family members who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. Does a Jew reject the Savior because his or her family does not believe?
Let me be clear. Jesus is telling His disciples He is God with the words “not worthy of me.” Imagine the shock of hearing that. Those listeners were confronted with a choice, do I follow this man who has revealed Himself as God-Incarnate or do I reject Him as an imposter? It is really the same choice we face today. To be rightly ordered, we must be disciples who follow His teaching to love Him above all else and others as He loves others. And the hard part is we must let go of the attachments that get in the way of giving ourselves fully to His will.
Jesus is not saying don’t love your family. He is saying don’t become attached to family above serving Him. If we love them unselfishly with Christ at the center, all will be well. However, if there is conflict in the family over living a Christian life, a Christian shouldn’t give up Church and worship to appease the family. Disciples hold firm in the faith. Jesus comes first—always. The conflicts that arise in family over religious ideas and practices are crosses to bear. Jesus, who came to save all, will help heal those conflicts. It may take a lifetime, but we must not give up faith that we can play a role in the salvation of others, especially family members, by simply continuing to try to live the gospel. We pray for those who are lost and keep peace with them, but we do not sacrifice Christian worship for them. By putting Jesus first, we are rightly ordered to receive His love and give it to others, including family. This is the only recipe for happiness, which the beatitudes promise.