My Dear Friends,
Perhaps we can call this “Relationships with God.” To get the answers to these questions that are posed by today’s readings and the Gospel, we have to begin with the fundamental truth of Christianity. Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of the Father, true God from true God. He is the center of the universe. For the Christian—truths take their meaning from Jesus. For the Christian, life takes its meaning from Jesus. Everything that matters flows from Him and returns back to Him. Jesus then unites us with the totality of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What matters is the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. The first part of today’s Gospel must be understood in this context. A relationship with another person takes its value in how that relationship reflects the relationship with Jesus Christ. The relationship to the Lord is the fundamental relationship a Christian must have. When Jesus says, “Hate your mother and father,” and so forth, He is not telling people to disregard the Fourth Commandment. He is telling them to understand the Fourth Commandment in the light of their relationship to Him. If parents or relatives, children, and even if one’s own self are more important to a person than Jesus Christ, then Christ is not the center of that person’s life. Nothing and no one can stand between the Christian and his Savior.
All relationships have their value in their ability to lead us to Jesus Christ. Husbands and wives need to find Jesus through each other. In distinct contrast to this, a Christian should avoid a relationship where God is not present, particularly if conscious efforts are made by the other person to exclude God from the relationship. If a relationship takes a turn to actions where God is not present, then the Christian needs to stop the relationship before becoming swept up into it. Perhaps this Christian needs to ask, “If God is not here, then what am I doing here?”
Parents need to love their children and children need to love their parents. The great fear that all Christian parents have is that they might consciously do things to lead their children away from the Lord instead of to the Lord. Children cannot obey parents who are leading them to sin. St. Lucy, St. Agnes and so many others accepted martyrdom rather than being forced by their parents into sinful lives. Nor can parents allow their children to destroy their own spiritual lives. If either of these were to take place, a parent leading a child away from Christ, or a child demanding a parent relinquish Christ, this would demonstrate that Christ is not the center of the parent-child relationship. But when parents lead their children to Christ, and when children point out Christ’s life to their parents, then Christ is the center of the relationship. These loving parents and children are in fact, loving Christ.
Psychologists tell us, and rightly so, that we need to love ourselves. In the Church we continually remind people that every person brings a unique reflection of God to the world. But there are aspects of our lives that do not reflect God. It is right to hate those parts of ourselves that tempt us to push God out of our lives. We cannot love these and still love Jesus Christ. St. Augustine put it this way: “For he loves you too little, Lord, who loves along with you anything else that he does not love for your sake.”
Jesus demands that He be the center of every aspect of our lives. What is right? What is wrong? Which relationships are good? Which are evil? People ask these types of questions all the time. The answers they are looking for can be found in the simple answer to this question: Is Jesus present in this action, in this relationship?
So today’s Gospel really has a simple message: We need to hate all that keeps us from the Lord and love all that brings us closer to Him. This takes courage. This takes carrying our crosses and following our Lord.
Father Patrick V. Kirsch, KHS