|Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor|
Quote of the Week: “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
As Jesus talks about commitment to discipleship today, it may sound like he has lost it. It is one thing to ask us to renounce our possessions. People have given up all kinds of pleasures for different reasons: sacrificing for their children, saving up for years to get something they really want, giving away much of what they own because they see that others have a greater and more basic need.
But Jesus says more. “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
We know that Jesus is saying both more and less here, because this teaching fits into a whole Gospel and cannot be read accurately without being isolated from the rest.
Nowhere would Jesus ever advocate hating one's parents. Nowhere would Jesus suggest hating oneself. Jesus, like many others in the scriptures, and like any teacher or parent, used a communication device called a hyperbole — defined as a gross exaggeration to make a point.
But at the same time, he was absolutely serious about putting himself and the Gospel first — over everyone and everything.
The truth is that they are not necessarily opposed to each other. What Jesus brings before our eyes and our consideration is: do we wish to live or to really live?
Living and really living are very different things. For example, to say that, “I forgive someone, but I never want to talk to them again” is different from saying, “I forgive them and want the best for them, and will consider a new relationship, probably with different boundaries than before.”
There is a difference between forgiving and really forgiving. In other words, once again, Jesus is after transformation; he wants every relationship with every person and thing in our lives to be different. He wants us to reconsider and rename our relationship with family, friends, enemies, money, job, free time, service, compassion, and prayer.
If Jesus and the Gospel are first, it doesn’t mean we won’t have family and friends in our life. It doesn’t even mean we will spend less time with them. In fact, if Jesus and the Gospel come first, it might mean, in some cases, that I need to spend more time with family or friends.
It will ask us to look carefully at how we use our possessions, spend, buy, and live with everything.
The Gospel of Jesus is about placing a value on persons and things — always in the context of love. The very reason we sometimes give up something is for love – of other, of self, or of the thing itself — to preserve or share it generously with others.
Each of us will, no doubt, decide each of these things in light of our discipleship with Jesus, in light of where we are with the Gospel.
And each will discover personal growth at their own rate, in their own time, and say yes to transformation one step at a time.
Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email email@example.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.