The teaching of Jesus today seems harsh and it is somewhat confused. Let us take a deeper look to see what it really means. After about three years in public life, Jesus performed many miracles and wondrous things such as healing the sick, giving eyesight to the blind and raising people from the dead. While he was on his way to Jerusalem for his final mission for our redemption, many people who followed him were Jews; they thought that Jesus would be a political leader who would set them free from the Roman control. They were anxious to join him. Jesus stopped, turned around, and addressed the people. He made it clear to them that his kingdom was not of this world. He challenged them to consider carefully the price that they must pay for following Him in order to reach the place where He was going.
Jesus is saying that we must be ready to sacrifice absolutely everything to follow Him. Nothing will stand in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Of course we should love and care for our relatives, but we must love Jesus above all else. If ever our loved ones such as father, mother, spouse or even our own life stands in the way of our love for Jesus, then we must choose Jesus. Yes, only God can demand this total commitment and renunciation of everything that interferes with our relationship with Him. Our Parish Patron, St. Francis of Assisi, has exhibited this kind of love for Jesus. When he decided to live a simple life according to Jesus’ teachings, which was against his father’s will who always had wanted his son to look after his business. Francis committed to follow Jesus and declared to his father that God was the only father he now recognized. He said "I have called you my father on earth thus far; from now on, I desire to say only 'Our Father who art in Heaven’."
Only those who have ever experienced the strong power of love would understand this. When we completely give over our body, mind, and soul to the one we love, everything else becomes relative and meaningless. This may very well have happened to many of you who have fallen in love with someone. You may have experienced a total love that no one can stand between your love for each other, not even your father or mother! You were willing to sacrifice your own life for the one you love. That is why we see people jumped off bridges because, they were broken hearted and separated from the one they love dearly. Likewise, this has to happen to us in our relationship with Jesus. We need to be so overpowered by Jesus that all other bonds and ties become secondary and less important. That is what happened to St. Paul as he said, “Whatever I once valued as precious now I consider it as sheer waste compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ. All I want is to know Christ and experience the power of His resurrection. Everything else is mere rubbish.” (Phil 3:10)
What Jesus said today is similar to the statement in (Mt 10: 37) that“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.” The Gospel of Jesus is the Gospel of love, not of hate. Turning our back on father, mother, and our loved ones, does not mean deserting or denying them. What it means is that if my relatives or my own evil inclinations prevent me from following Jesus, I must oppose them and do what is right. This is a call for a total dedication of the true Discipleship of Jesus.
The true Disciple will love Jesus supremely. Every other love in our life must seem like nothing when compared to our love for Jesus! The true Disciple will follow Jesus - This means to be engaged in the works He did, we will speak, live, and love as He did. The true disciple of Jesus has one purpose in life that is to be a witness to Jesus in this world by loving one another as we love ourselves. Once we live in such a way that the world can no longer see Jesus in our lives, we have failed in our mission as his true disciples. Being true Disciples of Jesus when we belong to a larger family, where we recognize every person around us as our brother or our sister and care for each other especially in the time of need. Also at the right moment, we are willing to lay down our own life for a friend - This is the kind of discipleship, Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel.
My brothers and sisters, as we come to the table of the Eucharist today, may the Holy Spirit give us the strength to become true Disciples of Jesus and be his witnesses to the world. Like St. Francis of Assisi, may we have the courage to turn our back on anything that is near and dear to us in this life; and to commit ourselves totally and completely in our relationship with God as we continue our journey toward our Father’s home.
Pt. Theman Pham