Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Jesus has been telling his apostles the price to be paid if they (still) want to follow him. To our (ungraced) ears the price sounds unreasonable and harsh. What would Jesus say to potential followers if their parents needed them at home? Early Christian writer and teacher, St. John Chrysostom, said this. “It is holy to render one’s parents every honour, but when they demand more than is their due we ought not to yield.” Are parents being put in second place to their son or daughter, or are they are being put in second place to God? What Jesus is highlighting here is the uncompromising character of the following of Christ.
Putting God first means that faith is not just another interest we have in our lives, like sport or economics or politics. Christ’s call to faith is prior to other interests we might have. To keep the call of Christ in our lives ahead of other desires we may have, we need the help of God’s grace. But it is important that we as Christ’s followers understand the precedence and priority of Christ claim on our lives. I’ve heard people say that they ‘get Mass’ on Sunday and spend the rest of the day watching sport, or the rest of their time tending their financial portfolios. Christianity was not meant by Christ to be a part-time experience for those whom he called. It’s a major call on our time and resources.
Our Catholic tradition has emphasised our loving God rather than God’s loving us. We were formed by having drummed into us a need to do things to please God. Yet Jesus’ big teaching in the gospels, and in the writings of Paul, is that God is the One who does the loving. God is the initiator, not us. He is the active one, the one who wants us, chases us, courts us and seduces us. Christianity is all about God’s initiative. Our role as believers, as people who know we are loved, is to return God’s love to him not out of any kind of fear or long-face constraint but out of joy and exultation, and not looking like people who are at a funeral.
“Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact. God loves us so that we can change. What empowers change, what enables us to want to change is the experience of love. It is the inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.” – Richard Rohr
“Only those are great whose faith lifts them higher than themselves and who give themselves entirely to that faith.” – Yves Congar