This is a syndicated post from Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse. [Read the original article...]
Twenty-Third Week In Ordinary Time
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Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Did the Lord get your attention?
Did I get your attention with my provocative title? I’m following in Kenneth Cole’s footsteps. Actually, I’m not. I’m trying to follow in Christ’s footsteps.
Hating Father and Mother. The Lord knows how to get our attention. He can be very provocative. He’s good at it. He has to be. After all, so many people are trying to get our attention.
Christ’s moment has arrived. Success is just around the corner. The crowds are getting bigger. He’s getting noticed by everyone. Imagine the scene above: a great crowd has gathered around Him. Tons of people are ”following” Him, not on twitter, not on Facebook, but live, in person and on the world’s stage.
So what does the Lord do with all these people? He scares them.
I’m sure the Apostles must have been looking at each other, shaking their heads in disbelief and asking, “What is he doing? Why is he saying these? He’s ruining everything! They’re all gonna run away.”
Some things never change.
What do Mega Churches and small churches have in common? Well, as they start getting larger (or smaller), they tend to stop talking about controversial issues and start creating excuses for our sins. After all, we don’t want to lose anyone, right? We Are Church, right? They begin to sound more and more like the world.
This morning I read in the newspaper an advertisement for a very large church in Dallas. Their pastor is promoting a new series of talks revolving the second coming of Jesus Christ. The ad starts off with a quote from Billy Graham. It reads: “One of the least talked about themes in the Church today is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
Well, maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe it’s because no one knows when it’s going to happen. Even Jesus said He didn’t know. In fact, He said, “Only the Father knows.” Which is another way of saying stop worrying about this and begin to prepare for your unexpected and untimely death.
Let me tell you what are the least talked about themes in the Church today: personal sin and culpability, homosexuality, no-fault divorce, teen promiscuity, pre-martial sex, pornography, contraception, abortion and child abuse in general.
Now I’m not saying these things should be preached at every Mass. No. What I am saying is that they need to be discussed in our Catholic ministries, especially in our Catholic schools and youth and family ministries.
Why don’t we like to talk about these things? Because we are afraid to. Church teachings run countercultural. But the real reason why is because we don’t want to scare people away.
This morning, a gentleman from our Church got up and invited his fellow parishioners to come to an upcoming event. His speech was excellent [I'm going to go]. But then he said something that got me thinking about today’s Gospel. He said that “the food will be great and the meeting will be short.” It’s true, it’s all true. But not all events will be this easy. Not all activities and/or memberships will be this comfortable.
Being a Christian has never been an easy thing.
Imagine for a moment if Jesus sold “our cross” – the cross we must carry - as something light and small? My dear friends, whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Don’t worry, it’s light and retractable.
The message Christ has for us today is not new. In fact, it is quite old. What’s new is the way He delivered it: with brutal honesty and transparency. “If anyone comes to me without hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
To put it more boldly, He told the vast crowd: It’s not all about you or about the most precious people in your life. It’s about me. It’s all about me. Put me first, and I will put you and the most precious people in your life first.
Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” This question was asked after the Lord’s resurrection and after Peter’s third denial. Peter responded: “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
The irony of it all is that if we love God “more than these” (more than mother, father, brother, sister, children, etc…), then we will end up loving ”these” better than before.
In our decadent society, where God is relegated to the back of the line, we see a disturbing trend among teens and grown adults: we see a disregard for human life, a lack of respect for parents and the elderly. There is an increase in domestic violence, infidelity and child abuse. The suicide rate among teens still remains way too high.
Discipleship is not to be taken lightly. It doesn’t come easy. Vast crowds are not to be expected in Churches. Unlike Hitler youth rallies, souls will not be coming to Jesus en masse. Rather, salvation comes one prayer at a time, one soul at a time.
It would be so much easier if the Lord had told us to hate our job instead of our family; to hate our boss instead of our spouse; to hate our teenage son or daughter instead of our newborn child; to hate our cell phone provider, homework, school, politics, spinach, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend instead of our own life. We could nod our heads so easily and say, “Been there. Done that. I’m good.”
Instead, the Lord is inviting fine young men and women, among the vast crowd, to a higher calling, purpose and duty: to love beyond those dearest to them; to love Him above themselves.
Yes, by loving Him above all things, we will learn to love all these things far better than we ever loved them before.
Ask what you can do for your country. Sound familiar? It should. These words echo Christ’s words. Like Christ, our nation asks of our finest young men and women to sacrifice what they hold so dear to them, especially during times of war, and often, against the wishes and amidst the tears and begging of loving mothers, fathers, fiancés, spouses and children to stay home and not go.
This “love-hate” relationship can also be found in many teenage novels, where to save the life of the beloved, love must be called off and the beloved must be convinced (often at the price of the truth) that they are no longer loved.
Whoever does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
Do you love me more than your most beloved treasures? If so, then you will love them more than you ever loved them before. (237)
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