July 2, 2023; Matthew 10:37-42; 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus says in today’s gospel that whoever loves mother or father more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. That’s rather harsh, isn’t it? We all know the importance of family, and we know that Jesus recognizes that importance as well. After all, one of the Ten Commandments is to honor your father and your mother. So why in today’s gospel is Jesus pitting the love of family against the love of him? Why is the love of family positioned to be contrary to the love of God?
To answer this question, we might begin by examining how this saying came into the scriptures in the first place. In the days of the early Church, Christians were not seen positively in larger society. Christians were a strange group with odd beliefs, such as Jesus had been raised from the dead. Most in society thought such beliefs were foolish and impossible. So, we can be rather confident that when people decided to become a Christian, they did so often over the objections of their family. Their family simply thought that they were making a foolish decision to join some religious fringe movement. Clearly those converting to the faith thought differently. They thought that they were following the command of Christ by putting his call above the desires of their family. The harsh words of today’s gospel are meant to comfort and support those who were leaving their family to become Christian. They affirm that following Christ was a higher value than making one’s family happy.
Today Christianity is accepted as a valid religion, and there are much fewer people who would object to someone becoming a Christian. But the words of Jesus in today’s gospel still apply to our lives, because many of us can find ourselves in circumstances where Jesus is calling us to something that is contrary to what our family and friends would like us to do.
You might in all sincerity believe that Jesus is calling you to marry a person of a different background or race, and you know how disturbing this would be to your family. But if you sincerely trust that the call is coming from Christ, then today’s gospel says your family will need to adjust.
Some people find that accepting their sexual orientation is a gradual and lengthy process. Yet the questions, “Who am I and how do I love?” are some of the most important questions anyone could ask. It might be obvious how your family and friends want you to answer that question, but if you find Jesus leading you to a different conclusion, it is his words that need to be heeded.
You may be in a marriage for many years and be blessed with beautiful children. But now you find that you are dying inside. For as many times as you have tried to save the marriage, now it seems that there is nothing left to save. You know how upset your parents and your children would be if you decide to leave the marriage. Yet, if that is where Christ is leading you, that is where you need to go.
It is a difficult thing to disappoint and hurt the people who are closest to us, the people whom we love. And yet, if Christ is guiding us in a different direction, their desires are not the highest value. In fact, pleasing our family in those circumstances may render us unworthy of Jesus.