The Order of Love
With this heart, we desire to have and do only that which serves to aid us in knowing, loving, and serving the Father.
The gospel today picks up right where we left off last week. Jesus is talking to the Apostles about their mission and the nature of discipleship. After telling us that we need not be afraid, Jesus gets to the core of what it means to be His disciple and the demand it makes of us.
Where is the Love?
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).
He says the same of the one who “loves son or daughter more than me”. What is Our Lord getting at here? Should we not love our parents or children? Obviously, the answer is no. Rather, Jesus is asking us to take a sincere look at our own hearts, and to recognize how our love is ordered. Friends, none of us are the spiritual masters we think we are. We all fall into this trap. If we think that we have grown out of this tendency, we are in desperate need of a reality check. We are human, and we are fallen. We seek to love the good, yet settle for lesser goods all the time to satisfy ourselves as quickly as possible. We are disordered by original sin in that our love is not ordered as it ought to be. Jesus demands that our love for Him come before all else in our lives, even the things that would seem most important, like family. The question becomes: Why?
Being a Disciple
We find an answer in looking at what it means to be a disciple. A disciple is a follower, in this case, a follower of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. How can we claim to be followers if we would not follow where He goes? Friends, Christ goes to the cross.
“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38).
There is no way around this, no matter what deceptions or promises the Evil One may make. If we have our love set on anything before Our Lord, then we will always go to protect whatever it is that we love first rather than go with Jesus in suffering to the cross. It may be a person, it may be our job or financial security, it may be the way we look physically, some habit we have, or our social image. It may even be smaller things like the clothes we wear, our phones, or some other possession. All of these vie for first place when it comes to our hearts. And often we let them win because it would be too hard to let go or to change for Him. It would be too painful to pick up and carry the cross. We focus on the thing, the suffering, and lose sight of the Person. And so Christ takes a backseat becoming another thing that is useful or good when it's convenient. He is not worthy of our love. It is here then that Our Lord’s words ring in our ears as He says, therefore, we are “not worthy of me”
Brothers and sisters, this should strike deeply at our hearts and convict us. It is not a condemnation, but admonishment of love from Jesus. He is inviting us to a profound conversion and deepening of heart at each moment throughout our lives. Jesus is calling us to have an indifferent heart, as St. Ignatius of Loyola would say. This is not the kind of cold indifference of the heart that does not care about anything or anyone, but rather one that, in fact, cares so deeply about living life with God that it will receive whatever He gives and do whatever leads to a more fruitful life with God. The heart’s first and only love is God. With this kind of heart, we desire to have and do only that which serves to aid us in knowing, loving, and serving the Father, as is our purpose as human beings created in His image and likeness. We cling to Christ and let go of all that pulls us away from He who is our very life now and forever.
Let us hear Our Lord’s message with open hearts and minds, and be brutally honest with ourselves. This is something to be practiced and to work on our whole lives. We must always try to be attentive to the things in our lives that are trying to take the place of God in our hearts, so that we can see when they have done just that. Then, with the help of Christ, we must root them out, concretely change our ways, and pick up the cross to follow Jesus wherever He goes, even to death. Take heart in St. Paul’s words from the second reading: “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8). The moment we find ourselves thinking that everything is fine and that we have found the perfect balance of living the Christian life, we can be assured that we are lost. For as Christ says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39).
Reflection for Prayer
Spend some time in prayer today, 10-20min, asking God to help you see one aspect of your life that is in need of conversion. Ask Him to help you let go of it, and for the strength to hold to Him. Remember: God is patient, so be patient with yourself and your weaknesses.