September 5, 2010
ORDINARY 23 (C)
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14: 27
Here we have a loving Jesus preaching hate as he announces to the crowd that unless they hate their parents & family they can’t be counted as his disciples. What kind of talk is that? It is the kind of exaggeration or hyperbole that a first century Jew would use to make a deeper point. What is that point? It boils down to this: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God & observe it.”
It is not blood ties or friendship that binds one to Jesus but obedient response to the word (which He received from His heavenly Father) that He proclaims. Underneath it’s about commitment, observing priorities, allegiance. What is the cost to us of being Christian? Has fidelity to the Gospel ever cost us money, reputation, the possibility of advancement, property, or even family harmony?
Take Elizabeth Ann Seton from high society, linked to the first families of New York , married at 19, who eventually found herself at age 30 widowed & penniless, with 5 small children to support. While in Italy with her dying husband, she met several Catholic families whose kindness, charity & devotion impressed her. In March 1805 she became a Catholic. She went on to found the first American Catholic community of sisters, & she also opened the first Catholic school & orphanage.
She was the first American born citizen to be canonized, but it wasn’t easy. Perhaps her hardest cross was when many of her family & friends turned their backs on her for becoming Catholic. But she clung to her newfound faith. She was forced to accept the “hate” of her family in order to be a disciple.
Here is the South African writer Alan Paton’s story about Robert Mansfield:
Mansfield was a white man & headmaster of a white school who took his athletic teams to play cricket & hockey against the black schools. That is, until the department of education forbade him to do it anymore. So he resigned in protest. Shortly after, Emmanuel Nene, a leader in the black community, came to meet him. He said, “I’ve come to see a man who resigns his job because he doesn’t wish to obey an order that will prevent children from playing with one another.”
“I resigned because I think it is time to go out & fight everything that separates people from one another. Do I look like a knight in shining armor?” “Yes, you do, but you are going to get wounded. Do you know that?” “I expect it may happen,” Mansfield replied. “Well,” Nene said, “you expect correctly. People don’t like what you are doing, but I am thinking of joining you in the battle.”
“You’re going to wear the shining armor too?” asked Mansfield . “Yes & I‘m going to get wounded too, not only by the government but also by my own people as well. “Aren’t you worried about the wounds?” “I don’t worry about the wounds. When I get up there, which is my intention, the Big Judge will say to me, ‘Where are your wounds?’ & if I say, ‘I haven’t any,’ he will say, ‘Was there nothing to fight for?’ I couldn’t face that question.”
Is there nothing to fight for? Or as the Gospel would put it, is there nothing worth being hated for? AMEN!