St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

The True Love For One’s Family -Homily September 4, 2016

The True Love For One’s Family                                               -Homily September 4, 2016

 

Jesus looks behind and sees so many people following him. It must have felt wonderful to be followed by so many people, but for Jesus that was not the important thing. Were all those people following him with their whole heart? Were they really willing to do all he said? Did they really trust him? Did they really think that he had words of eternal life? Jesus was not looking for success, he wanted salvation for those who followed him. He wasn’t trying to have a good life himself; he was trying to give us eternal life. So, when he sees so many people following him, he faces them with the deepest requirements of our Christian religion. He says to them: “I know you people like me, but let us be clear: I want it all. God does not deserve anything less than your whole self. You shall love God above all things. Above your parents, your relatives, your own life.”

 

At the same time, two other things should be clear about this message of Jesus: 1) that the way of renunciation he is presenting, is the true and only way towards happiness; and 2) that we don’t lose anything of what we give up for God.

 

1) The reason so many people were following Jesus is because they knew that he was able to make them happy, to bestow happiness, healing and joy. They knew he was the true source of life and of eternal life. That is still true, and not in opposition with what he is saying now. Now he is showing that the way to obtain true happiness is by carrying the cross. The way to obtain victory is by fighting the battle; the way to win the prize is by participating in the contest.

 

2) At the same time, we need to understand that we don’t lose what we give up for God. We don’t lose what we entrust to God’s care. Let us go back to the Gospel: why does Jesus say that if we don’t hate our family members we cannot be his disciples? It is of course a figure of speech. We are commanded to honour our parents, and to love even our enemies: of course we have to love our family and friends. What Jesus means is that no other person or thing can interfere with our following him. He says this because sometimes out of regard for a person we “love,” we may be tempted to break a commandment. Or we may do something wrong because of selfishness, which is a disordered love of self. If we love something or someone more than Jesus, we cannot be his disciples.

 

What is difficult to understand is that true love of our neighbour will never be opposed to the love of Jesus. Suppose that your child is doing something wrong, against the teaching of Jesus and his Church. Some parents, in order not to lose the good disposition of their child towards them, prefer not to rebuke him. “If I say something to him,” they think, “he may get upset and leave me. I’d better keep silence, and enjoy his company and affection.” I ask, is that true love? Is it true love to prefer my satisfaction to the true happiness of my child? “If he loves me, I will be ok.” But will he be ok if he keeps doing the wrong thing? Will I be at peace with myself the day I see that my child is unhappy or even a bad person, just because I wasn’t kind enough to say what I should have said?

 

Mind you, not all the mistakes of children are the fault of the parents. We cannot blame ourselves for all the evil of the world. But even if we have been responsible for some evil our children did, let us remember that forgiveness is not only for children, but also for parents. Let us say sorry and fight the battle: while there is life, there is hope, for us and for them.

 

3) Also, I am not saying that you have to have an argument every time someone is in the wrong. Our job is not to make people angry with us, but to tell them what they need to hear, and to plant the seed, in the most loving possible way, so that they change, not so that they reject us. The point is that, once you know that this is the right thing to say or to do, we have to go ahead, even if we know that we may be rejected.

 

A good father or mother prefers sometimes to lose a child for a while, rather than see him become a bad person. Think of St. Monica and St. Augustine. Monica cried and prayed many years for the conversion of her child: she didn’t give up in seeing him living as a bad Christian. Finally, after many years, her voice was heard, by her son and by God himself. What she got back was not only the affection of her son, but a son admired by the whole world, who loved his mother like the best son and cared for her until her death. Children eventually recognize that what you did was for their sake, and they realize, that day, that nobody loved them more than you. Just because you loved God more than them.

 

It is true: to be a Christian means that we will suffer sometimes. But suffering for us is with a purpose, and only for a while, and always sustained by the grace of God and his consolations. If we take up our cross and follow Jesus, we will truly enjoy eternal life, beginning on earth.

 

Sometimes we Christians remain in between: we are not happy with worldly happiness, because we try not to break the commandments. But neither are we happy with the happiness of the cross, because we do not take up our cross with conviction: we try to avoid the sufferings of being a Christian, we complain about them… Jesus knows what is good for us, Jesus knows what is the way to eternal life: let us trust him. Let us embrace our cross and follow him. Let us not be afraid of suffering some contradiction from other people, for saying or doing the right thing: let us remember that Jesus was rejected not only by his own relatives, but by the Jewish religious authority, and he was even abandoned by his own apostles. And like Jesus, let us offer this suffering for the conversion of the very people who disagree with us, so that one day they may praise the Lord with us. –Fr. Andrew