By Fr. Frank J Timar, MSC
We can’t read the Gospel stories about Jesus without coming away with something that was obvious. Jesus loved everyone, even His critics and enemies, but He loved His Mother more. So, we have a good reason to wonder when He tells His disciples, “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” It’s safe to say that Jesus loved us more than Himself. All we have to do is look how He responded to the needs of the people. He taught the people who “were like sheep without a shepherd.” He chased out devils. He healed lepers and people with other maladies.
Jesus gave instructions to His disciples to prepare them to do God’s work. He told them what they needed: “Take no provisions for yourselves, no food, water, money or extra clothes; you are to rely on the hospitality of strangers,” and He told them what might happen to them: “You may not always be well-received. You will be invited to leave the town or village and you will be hated. Even your own family members will turn you in to the authorities.” Jesus added that He did not come to bring peace to the earth but a sword, setting people against one another, and one thing more, we must love Jesus more than our own family. Here, Jesus is telling us that He loves His Father most of all, and so should we! Finally, we must take up our cross and live and die for others. If we want to have life, we will have to lose our life for Jesus.
When Jesus sent out His disciples to do God’s work, He did not sugarcoat anything. Amazingly, the first disciples accepted His challenge! He told them up front that they would face difficulties if they chose to stick with Him. This turned out to be what happened during the first two centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christians were imprisoned and executed. Family members turned in their own flesh and blood to the authorities. Most of us will never experience this kind of persecution. But, we will encounter many difficulties and obstacles as we seek to make our faith come alive. This is simply because of our own misunderstandings, our many temptations and bad choices, our compromises, and the thousand other things we do. Anyone who is serious about the Christian journey, anyone who really wants to walk with Jesus, and carry out His hopes and dreams for us, knows that all this is far from easy. We must live for Christ and others. That’s hard to do at the best of times, and a lot of times, we are not very good at it.
So, are we ready to put our muscle where our mouth is? Are we satisfied with being spectators in the field of life or are we on the team sweating out every pitch? Jesus had something positive to offer His disciples if they chose this path. It was the last thing He told them. They would know that the Lord was present in their lives at every step of their life’s journey. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” It’s what we mean when we say, “Go with God!”