My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We continue to live in these challenging times, and we are especially praying for healing and peace in our city and in our country, and also praying also for an end to this coronavirus pandemic that has changed our lives so much in these past few months.
So we turn to God always in our needs and especially as he comes to encourage us and to enlighten us in the Eucharist. And in today’s readings we have a lesson in faith and love, in what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Discipleship is demanding. Following Jesus takes courage. We need to have the strength to love Jesus above everything — above every relationship in our lives.
That is what he is talking about in the Gospel today. Jesus says:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Jesus’ words today can sound harsh.
But we know that our Lord is always tender, that his love for us is always gentle. What he is telling us today is the truth about our lives and how we can know perfect joy. Perfect happiness.
Jesus loves every authentic human love. And this is what we are here for on earth— to love one another. To love and to be loved.
He wants the love between husband and wife, parents love for their children, our love for parents and grandparents and for our siblings.
This love is beautiful! Jesus rejoices in our relationships! He wants us to love!
But above every human, every love we may have in our life — we need to have the love of God. The love of God must be the heart of every relationship.
And as we know, Jesus always shows us the way. He never asks us to do anything that he has not done before us. He tells us to carry our cross in today’s Gospel — and of course we know, he carried his cross before us.
And so also, in his earthly life, we see him following the same advice he is giving us today.
Jesus loved his mother Mary, loved his foster-father, St. Joseph. He loved them deeply. But remember the story of the finding in the Temple? He was lost for three days and they finally found him talking to the teachers in the Temple.
Remember what he said to them: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”2
Those are hard words, too. Just like the words we hear in the Gospel today. But does that mean Jesus doesn’t love Mary and Joseph? Obviously not!
He loves them deeply. But he loves God more. God must be the first love!
So that’s what he wants from us. And this is really a promise he is making today. If we want to really know what true love feels like — then we need to love God more than anything else in our life.
And when we love God — and that means living by his words, always trying to do his will, always wanting to do everything in our lives to please him — when we love God, every other love in our life takes on a deeper meaning.
So, today we need to ask for the grace to continue strengthening our love for God remembering in every moment that we are in the presence of God.
So, let’s try to always keep in mind — that God is watching us. Not like a judge, but like a Father! He loves each one of us and when he looks at us, He can only look with eyes of love.
We need to nurture our relationship with God, and we do that, as we know, reading Sacred Scripture, the Word of God, receiving the Eucharist, but also spending a little time each day being quiet and “sitting” in the presence of God.
Just a few moments. Quiet things down. Think about Jesus. Say a little prayer. Read a few of his words.
In the end, what we need to do is welcome Jesus into our hearts, just like we heard, in the 1st reading of today’s Mass, that the Prophet Elisha was received by the woman and her husband.
This beautiful couple makes a special room for the prophet because they want him to stay and be with them.
My dear brothers and sisters, we have to do the same thing in our own lives. We have to really make room in our lives to receive Jesus. We need to make a “room” for him in our hearts.
Again, that means making time for him, again — slowing down to be with Jesus. Detaching ourselves a little bit to spend time in his presence.
But then, as we know, we also love God, loving others. “We correspond with the love of God when we love others; when we see in them the dignity proper to the human person, made as it has been in the image and likeness of God, created with an immortal soul and call to give glory to God for all eternity” (In Conv. 4.1.3).
Jesus tells us today in the passage of the Gospel: “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
My dear brothers and sisters, again there are so many little things that we can do for others. Just listening to them, showing gratitude, saying a positive word, spending time with them. Doing simple works of service. And, for sure, praying for one another.
St. Paul says today in the second reading: “If we have died with Christ … we shall also live with him.”
So we need to “lose” our life, we need to “die” to certain things in our lives. We need to clear everything out of the way, so we can have that “newness of life” that St. Paul talks about today.
So, let’s try to work on that this week. Let’s ask for that grace — to receive Jesus and to make him the center of our heart. And to love him more than anything else in our lives! And to love others for the love of God.
May our Blessed Mother Mary help us to have her heart, a heart to love Jesus. May she help us to be kinder and more thoughtful, more gentle — in all of our relationships.