Notes: “Our love for Jesus is to be as spontaneous, unconditional, and inevitable as our love for father, mother, or child, only infinitely more absolute”.
“Once again Jesus reveals his divine origin, his divine nature as Son of God, not conceptually, through abstract definition, but dynamically, by proclaiming himself more worthy of any man’s love than the very beings to whom that man owes his physical life.”
The words of our Gospel this morning I find very moving. They are a great encouragement for me as I begin my time here at Our Lady of Consolation. Jesus says, Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Friends, I have been sent here by Bishop Walkowiak, to serve you as your parochial vicar. His hope is that I, along with Fr. Tony, are able to bring each of you into a deeper relationship with God. It is a hope, most likely, shared by each of you. And so, you expect, and hope, that as you receive me here at this parish, you will encounter God in a deeper way. These words for me have been an encouragement and a challenge: How will I represent Christ’s love to this community? We’ll pray for one another as we begin our time together at OLC. And, I’m excited to be here.
But our Gospel has a strange message… Jesus says, Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Why would he say this? Further, why does it seem like we have two separate messages for us in our Gospel today? The truth is that these two statements, 1) whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and, 2) whoever receive you receives me and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me are very intentional statements said together by Christ to emphasize something. They are together a profound Christological statement. They teach us about who Christ is.
Is Jesus saying that we should not have a deep love for our parents? For our sisters and brothers? And for our close friends? Of course not. But what is he saying? The verb that Christ uses for love in this statement is Phileo – it evokes a tender love for another person. In other words, it evokes that same kind of love we exhibit with our family. The bond and connection between the family, for us, can be the highest kind of love we experience on earth. The closeness and tenderness that can exist amongst family members is unconditional. We love our family simply because they are family.
So when Jesus says you must love me more than your father and mother, he is asking for us to give our hearts to him totally. Christ wants a close and tender relationship with all of us. But here is why the call to love him more than members of our family is a profound statement about who Christ is. For the Jews, something that was already expected was to love God with one’s whole heart, mind, and soul. They would not have been scandalized at all if Jesus had said, whoever loves father or mother more than God is not worthy of Him. But instead, he referred to himself. But, “Only God can deserve such absolute love from each person individually and from humankind collectively”. Jesus asks for us to love Him with all our being; as if he is God, and it is because he is God.
Jesus has revealed his divine origin. Whoever receives one of his disciples, receives the one who sent him. Jesus’ mission is to proclaim the Heavenly Father to the world. So, if we receive Jesus, and seek to love him, the kind of love experienced between close friends, then we, in fact, come to know God in a more intimate way.
And this reality that Christ comes from God – that Christ is God – changes us! Saint Paul reminds us of the beautiful gift that we have received from Christ by being baptized. He says, Brothers and Sisters, Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?… so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. One of the most amazing truths about our Christian faith is how we come to know God. In other religions, finding God is our task, our search for God. But what separates Christianity is God’s search for us. God sent his son Jesus, into our lives to reveal himself to us and his profound love for us. Our challenge is to take the call of our baptism seriously. To turn away from our old selves, our bad habits, vices, and struggles with sin. Now we are defined by who we are in Christ. Each of us a son and daughter of God.
So today, as we receive the Eucharist, we come before Jesus with gratitude, that it is truly God that we approach. May the Eucharist we receive strengthen us to turn away from our old lives and live in the newness of life that Christ has given us.