Sep 7, 2019

Disputed Family

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” These words of the Lord spoken through the Gospel might seem harsh. But simply said, from the perspective of someone who dares give their life, their whole life to Christ it makes perfect but painful sense. Lk 14:25-33

How? The ultimate reality each of us will face is that we can not sustain or hold onto earthly relationships as they are now, forever. Our relationships with family, friends and even with this world as we know it will come to pass. And in the world to come, we hope that all our necessary relationships, especially with God, will not only be in place but will be life giving. 

To illustrate this point, look to Christ. Yes, he was born into a human family with natural relationships. But the relationship he had with Mary and Joseph and even his natural extended family never took precedence over the relationship with his Heavenly Father and his adopted brothers and sisters that we have become and to whom he sacrificed his life. 

Just some examples.  

He went missing for a few days as a young boy. His disappearance put anguish and fear into the hearts and minds of Mary and Joseph frantically searching for him. When they did find him, from our perspective he didn’t even seem concerned about them. And as if to add insult to injury, scolded them for not knowing that his Heavenly Father took precedence. 

During his public ministry, many of Jesus’s extended family, feared he was “going off the deep end” (Mark 3:31-35) and tried to intervene, probably in an attempt to take him home. When someone in the crowd told him that his mother and family were here, he replied, "Who are my mother and my brethren?" And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."

Even when Christ was dying on the cross, when Mary was nearby he told her to stop mothering him. Instead be a mother to my disciples. 

Yes, natural family relationships are important and they have great influence upon us for good and for bad, for they affect our minds and our hearts. But as Christ showed us by his life, the supernatural relationships we have with God and with the family of the Church are much, much more important, because they affect our souls, which are eternal. 

Sometimes we can’t have it both ways. And that will often involve a painful choice and a sacrifice. Even in that very touching letter from St. Paul we heard in the second reading, Paul looks upon a runaway slave as his son in Christ. He appeals to the slave’s master to see the young man as his brother in the Lord. 

And that’s what being in a real relationship with Jesus Christ does. It messes up all our natural family relationships and puts us all in one common family of adopted sons and daughters, with a common Father and a spiritual mother in Mary. 

If I call myself a disciple of Christ, my obligations to him and to his family of which I am now a part, take precedence over my own family business and affairs. It is the reason, I hope each one of us, brothers and sisters, are gathered here every Sunday, to support and encourage each other as family should, and to pray also for our absent sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. But there is enough of us here, with God’s grace, to fulfill those roles as needed spiritually. 

May the family sacrifices we all have to make, now find meaning, by offering and joining them to the one eternal sacrifice of Christ we encounter in this Holy Eucharist. 

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grab on + Hold fast

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