Jesus Christ: Home Wrecker?
Who do you love most deeply? Your mom? Your dad? Your spouse? Your sister or a brother? Well – be careful what you answer. Jesus might just get jealous! (Not really – but keep reading.) The truth is that Jesus wants you to love him more. That’s what this week’s gospel literally says. But like so many other things Jesus says, there’s a lot more to it than what we see on the surface. Let’s take a look at the deeper meaning of this week’s gospel.
Return To Family Values
Well, the religious right has been saying it for a long time: We need a return to family values. Now you can’t turn on the TV or get online without seeing yet another “reality” show about some over-the-top family. I guess the religious right should have been clear on who’s family values we need to return to!
The gospel passage today seems to speak against family values. Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Wow. Not worthy of Jesus by just loving your family a lot? I guess the family on Full House is bound for the netherworld – and not just because of Bob Sagat’s ultra-lame jokes.
The people in Jesus’ time would have been just as surprised by this saying as we are. The family was even more important back then. The family was the well-spring of life. It was the building block of society. Without strong families, tribes would die out. Races, cultures, and traditions would die out. Yet Jesus says he is more important.
The Savior with the High SAT Scores
But we can’t stop reading at the part about the family. Jesus goes on to list off phrases that sound like analogies from an SAT. He says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Actually what Jesus is using is a paradox. He strings two ideas together that seem to be incompatible, yet are both true. For example, we are all going to die. As soon as we find our “life” and become too attached to the physical world, it’s over. However, when we die, we will find new life in Jesus.
The same is true with the second line. We are all members of the body of Christ. Whether we are Catholic, Baptist, Hindu, Jewish, or Muslim, we all carry with us the mark of the One who made us. So when we receive each other or are received, we are really receiving the One who is the Source of All Life.
With this in mind we can look at the gospel as whole to fully understand Jesus’ message.
On Your Graduation Day
This part of Matthew is essentially graduation day for the apostles. Jesus is trying to instruct them about how to best succeed in being people of God in the world.
Just as high school graduation speakers often talk about becoming more independent and leaving the “nest,” so too does Jesus guide his apostles. They will not always have their families. There will be times in their lives when their families will be far away. But God is always with them. If they remember that, they will be able to make it in the world.
It’s not that we shouldn’t love our families. The members of our family are the ones who teach us how to love. It would be difficult to love God without the model of love that our families have been.
But here’s the hard part: we have to go out and treat others as if they mean as much to us as our family. Jesus tells us that in loving them, we are loving him. It’s a chain reaction – the circle of life. Our families love us, we love them, we are called to love others, and in doing so, we show our love for God. It’s like a domino effect. A little bit of loving goes a long way.
But if Jesus’ words still seem too hard to understand, just follow St. Paul’s direction in his letter to the Romans. He says, “you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”
It’s as simple as this: Live for God and everything else is covered!
How are you “living for God?”
Are you happy with your relationship with your family? What is one way that you could improve upon it?
Who do you have trouble seeing God in the most? What might you do to change your point of view?
Original article by Nick Popadich, 2005 – 2020.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.