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To Love God Is Not to Go Against Man

XIII Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A – July 2, 2017

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Roman Rite
XIII Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A – July 2, 2017
2 Kings 4, 8-11, 14-16a; Ps 89; Rm 6.3-4.8-11; Mt 10: 37-42
Ambrosian Rite
Gen 6: 1-22; Ps 13; Gal 5: 16-25; Lk 17. 26-30.33
1) The primacy of Christ’s love – To love the neighbor in God.
The beginning of today’s Gospel: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; who loves son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me “(Mt 10:37) sounds incomprehensible, not to say inhuman. Also the following two verses: “Whoever does not take his own cross and follow me, is not worthy of me. Whoever has kept his life for himself, will lose it, and who will lose his life for my cause, will find it “(Mt 10, 38-39) are not easily understandable. If we reason like the Jews and the Greeks of two thousand years ago, we would consider these phrases of Christ foolish and scandalous.
Therefore, let us understand their wise rationality, taking into account what Saint Paul states: ” For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1: 22-25).
First, to have this understanding we have to ask Christ to send His Spirit to help us read the Scripture with the same intelligence and with the same love with which he has read “it” for his disciples on the road to Emmaus. With the light of the Sacred Scripture, Christ helped the two disciples of Emmaus to see the presence of God in the upsetting events of his condemnation and of death. Thus, the cross, which seemed to be the end of every hope, has finally been understood by them as a source of life and resurrection.
Secondly, bear in mind that the Gospel of today tells us that:

  • the love for Jesus must overcome the love for father, mother and children (Mt 10, 37);

–      the cross forms part of the sequelae of Jesus (Mt 10:38);
–     it is necessary to lose life to be able to possess it (Mt 10, 39):
–     Jesus identifies himself with the missionary and the disciple (Mt 10, 40-41)
–     the smallest gesture (for example, offering a glass of water) done for the littlest of the little ones gets the greatest reward: Christ himself.
In the light of this, we can understand that the love for Christ is not antagonistic to love for our dear ones. Jesus does not ask to love them but to love them in Him.
To put it briefly: Christ tells not to prefer to God what God gives. Let’s look, for example, to the testimony of Abraham, to whom it was commanded to kill his only son. Abraham, between his son and God, chose God. “Therefore, even what the Lord gives you as the greatest thing, you must give to the One who gave it to you. And when God wants to take it away from you, do not break down, for you should love God for free. What better prize can we obtain than God himself? “(St. Augustine, Speech no 2, 4). With his alliance God “gave back” to Abraham his son. In fact, only referring to Him our human ties and affections find foundation and protection.
The Redeemer, who heals and sanctifies human love, elevates it in his heart. Giving the first place to the love for Him, our relationships are converted, healed and made true.
In the Paschal Cross, of death and resurrection, everything is reborn sanctified, even love between father and son, husband and wife. The primacy required by the Lord is the guarantor of every relationship freed from any idolatrous deviation: only God is God.
2) The Primacy of Christ’s Love in the family.
When the Messiah says that He must be loved by us more than our father and our mother, does not mean to erase the fourth commandment, which is the first great commandment towards people. We must not even think that, after doing the miracle for the newlyweds of Cana, after having consecrated the conjugal relationship between man and woman, after having resurrected the son of a widow and the daughter of a centurion returning them to family life, the Lord asks us to eradicate us from our loved ones.
Indeed, when the Redeemer affirms the primacy of faith and love for God, he does not find a comparison more significant than family affections.
The command to put family ties in the obedience of faith and of the covenant with the Lord does not mortify them. On the contrary, it protects them, releases them from selfishness, guarding them from degradation, and saves them for the life that does not die.
“When family affairs are converted to the witness of the Gospel, they become capable of unthinkable things that make us aware of the works of God, the works that He does in history like those that Jesus did for the men, the women and the children whom he met. A single smile miraculously ripped from the desperation of an abandoned child who begins to live, explains God’s action in the world more than a thousand theological treatises. One man and one woman, capable of risking and sacrificing for the son of others and not only for their own, explain to us things of love that many scientists do not understand any more. And, where these family affections are, there arise these gestures from the heart that are more eloquent than words. The gesture of love….. This makes us think “(Pope Francis).
Finally, besides asking us to love our dear ones in God, that is to live love in Love, in the today’s Gospel Christ teaches us that in order to do a gesture of love little is enough: “Whoever will have given just a glass of fresh water to one of these little ones, because he is my disciple, in truth I say to you, he will not lose his reward.” Every gesture of love and welcome, even the simpler, the less demanding, the one that apparently does not count, is not rated along the parameters of modern economy, utility, and performance, in the same way as that of a glass of water given to those who ask for it, if done with love and for love, will not lose his reward in front of God
3) The Primacy of Love in the Consecrated Virgins.
The teaching of Christ that is presented in today’s Gospel, can be summarized as follows:
1) If we love giving primacy to God nothing can separate us;
2) Everything has meaning in love when God is in the first place, even a glass of water.
At this point, it is right to propose the consecrated virgins as special witnesses of this primacy to be given to God. Theirs is the privileged testimony of a constant search of God, of a unique and indivisible love for Christ, and of absolute dedication to the growth of his kingdom. Without this concrete sign of consecrated virginity, the fire of charity that animates the whole church would risk to cool down, and the paradox of the gospel of the cross would run the risk of softening. These women bear witness that virginity allows a happy and true life, made of simplicity and humility, spontaneity and tenaciousness, gentleness and fortitude in the certainty of a faith industrious in charity.
To a humanity lost because of no real points of reference, the consecrated virgins, united with the love of God, are witnesses that vital adherence to their aim, that is to the living God, has truly unified and open, by integrating all its faculties, the purification of their thoughts, the spiritualization of their senses, the depth and the perseverance of their life in God.
In short, they witness, in a luminous and singular form, that the world can be transfigured and offered to God in the spirit of the beatitudes.
Patristic Reading
Saint John Chrysostom
Hom. on Mt 34
“He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy Of me.” Seest thou a teacher’s dignity? Seest thou, how He signifies himself a true Son of Him that begat Him, commanding us to let go all things beneath, and to take in preference the love of Him? “And why speak I,” saith He, “of friends and kinsmen? Even if it be thine own life which thou preferrest to my love, thy place is far from my disciples.” What then? Are not these things contrary to the Old Testament? Far from it, rather they are very much in harmony therewith. For there too He commands not only to hate the worshippers of idols, but even to stone them; and in Deuteronomy again, admiring these, He saith, “Who said unto his father, and to his mother, I have not seen thee; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, and his own sons he disowned: he kept Thy oracles.”15 And if Paul gives many directions touching parents, commanding us to obey them in all things, marvel not; for in those things only doth he mean us to obey, as many as do not hinder godliness.16 For indeed it is a sacred duty to render them all other honors: but when they demand more than is due, one ought not to obey. For this reason Luke saith, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;”17 not commanding simply to hate them, since this were even quite contrary to the law; but “when one desires to be loved more than I am, hate him in this respect. For this ruins both the beloved himself, and the lover.” And these things He said, both to render the children more determined, and to make the fathers more gentle, that would hinder them. For when they saw He had such strength and power as to sever their children from them, they, as attempting things impossible, would even desist. Wherefore also He leaves the fathers, and addresses His discourse to the children, instructing the former not to make the attempt, as attempting things impracticable. Then lest they should be indignant, or count it hard, see which way He makes His argument tend: in that having said, “Who hateth not father and mother,” He adds, “and his own life.” For why dost thou speak to me of parents, saith He, and brothers, and sisters, and wife? Nothing is nearer than the life to any man: yet if thou hate not this also, thou must bear in all things the opposite of his lot who loveth me. And not even simply to hate it was His command, but so as to expose it to war, and to battles, and to slaughters, and blood. “For he that beareth not his cross, and cometh after me, cannot be my disciple.”18 Thus He said not merely that we must stand against death, but also against a violent death; and not violent only, but ignominious too. And He discourses nothing as yet of His own passion, that when they had been for a time instructed in these things, they might more easily receive His word concerning it. Is there not, therefore, cause for amazement, how on their hearing these things, their soul did not wing its way from the body, the hardships being everywhere at hand, and the good things in expectation? How then did it not flee away? Great was both the power of the speaker, and the love of the hearers. Wherefore though hearing things far more intolerable and galling than those great men, Moses and Jeremiah, they continued to obey, and to say nothing against it. “He that findeth his life,” saith He, “shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.”19 Seest thou how great the damage to such as love it unduly? how great the gain to them that hate it? I mean, because the injunctions were disagreeable, when He was bidding them set themselves against parents, and children, and nature, and kindred, and the world, and their very soul, He sets forth the profit also, being very great. Thus, “These things,” saith He, “so far from harming, will very greatly profit; and their opposites will injure;” urging them, as He ever doth, by the very things which they desire. For why art thou willing to despise thy life?20 Because thou lovest it? Then for that very reason despise it, and so thou wilt advantage it in the highest degree, and do the part of one that loves it. And mark an instance of unspeakable consideration. For not in respect of our parents only doth He practise this reasoning, nor of our children, but with regard to our life, which is nearer than all; that the other point may thenceforth become unquestionable, and they may learn that they will in this way profit those of their kindred likewise, as much as may be; since so it is in the case even of our life, which is more essential to us than all.

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Mgr Francesco Follo

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