Offers food for thought
Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Second Kings 4:8-11, 14-16; Psalms 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42
To love as God loves…
Jesus’ desire was to draw all into the Kingdom where everyone, in perfect mystical union with God, loves as God loves and does as God does. The fulfillment of that desire is dependent upon each one of us, because it requires conversion. The sad truth is that many reject Jesus’ invitation precisely because they have no desire to change. Such people are in our families, our places of work and indeed all around us. They need our prayers and our lived example of God’s love. Such people are also, in fact, you and I here today. If we consider the cost too high or inconvenient, we tend to reject the call to the Cross and the demands of conversion for those areas of our hearts and minds which we prefer to remain beyond God’s influence.
In the Gospel today, Christ goes to the core area of difficulty in relation to our complete commitment to him. That is, for even the most faithful of his disciples, having to choose between him and members of our family can be very difficult. Clearly, Jesus calls us to overcome our preference for familial attachments over him, because any person or thing that moves us to not choose Jesus first, is a choice which is not borne of ‘true love’. Rather than being moved by Gods definition of love, we are more likely moved by the fear of hurting or depriving ourselves or family members. To love as God loves, is to allow hurt to happen if, and when necessary. That’s the moment when love is tough for ourselves and for the other person, a moment when we are tempted to deny Christ. Love for Jesus must be greater.
Our possessions, dreams, family, and ways of thinking must come under the lordship of Christ. Living his way, according to his truth is the narrow path that leads to the fullness of life. We must be conformed to him through total transformation, therefore anything that gets in the way of total surrender to Christ, must go or take its appropriate place in our lives. Does that mean I stop loving or meeting the real needs of my family? No, but it does mean that there is a higher love, a higher calling, that must take precedence so that all other righteous responsibilities will be met according to Gods wisdom and providence.
Is to do as God does…
Although, neither this Gospel exhortation nor others, is meant to limit our acts of love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is speaking in today’s reading specifically about his disciples loving and serving each other. To love as God loves leads us to do as God does. The extreme to which God will go, for love of us, was exemplified for all time at the place of the skulls, Golgatha. Jesus went to the extremes of love as he stretched out his arms, suffered, died and rose again. He tells us, “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.”
The example of Christ who gave his life, is the image of excellence for Christian loving and doing in imitation of Him. The ‘universal call to holiness’ necessarily demands becoming increasingly excellent lovers. In order to help us to rise to that challenge, God has also given us the examples of the Saints who help us understand and believe that we can in fact achieve by grace, that to which we are called.
One of the great temptations of our time in history is to ‘love and do’ according to what is convenient. This breeds mediocrity of faith and action. We are all, in some way at some time, inclined to do only what we need to, to get by. This is true at work, at home, in our faith journey and in our active participation in and contribution to the life of the Church. Many of us have accepted a domesticated Gospel, which is to say, if Jesus teaches something that makes us uncomfortable, we try to take the sting out of it, twist it into something more acceptable or just ignore it. We water down its demands and create a less transformative and challenging Gospel.
You are all familiar with the five precepts of the Church, the basics points in order to be considered a ‘good catholic’, which can be reviewed in sections 2041-2043 of the Catechism. The fifth precept challenges us to help provide for the needs of the Church. In the first reading and in today's Gospel, Gods Word speaks about this precept. Jesus also promises, that even a small gift to support the mission of his Church, will not be forgotten. When we put our time, talents, and treasure at the service of his Kingdom, he will always make sure that we share in the benefits of that Kingdom. Obeying the fifth precept of the Church is an investment with both eternal and immediate rewards.
One concrete way to carry out this precept is through the biblical practice of tithing, which has its roots in the old testament. For us, this can and should involve intentionally discerning and deciding to give to the Church a certain percentage of our income – the first 10%, for instance. Whether that amounts to the widows mite, or more. But, tithing is just one possible way of fulfilling the fifth precept. Although the Church does exhort and expect us to financially support Christ’s mission, tithing or stewardship is also much more that the financial aspect. It is also up to each one of us to decide, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the other ways in which we can contribute through prayer, active service in various parish ministries that exist now or ministries that are yet to exist because you haven’t brought your divinely inspired ideas forward yet.
The Gospel calls us to evaluate all aspects of our lives in the light of this teaching. We are asked to reflect and to identify the areas of our thinking, acting and being where we have accepted a Gospel of mediocrity which does not challenge us to excellence, in both loving as God loves and doing as God does.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.