What’s the most important thing in your life? Have you ever been asked that question? Have you ever thought about it? Take a second now. What is the most important thing in your life?
Your marriage? Your child/ren? Your health? Your home? Your job? Your faith? A short homily?
Hang on to that.
Jesus says something strange in the Gospel today – something that challenges that. “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Consider again that thing/person/idea that is most important to you. Can you hate it? That’s the word that Jesus uses: “hate,” from the Greek, miseo. It translates to “hate,” but it also implies “to love less,” and that in particular is what He is getting at here.
In fact, here, Jesus is asserting the absolute centrality and priority of His Person – that He is God, and that all other relationships must necessarily fall short in the face of Jesus’ call to friendship with Him. This isn’t a “jealous” Jesus, Who cannot tolerate any other relationship in our lives. Rather, it is a Jesus Who knows that by giving ourselves completely to Him, we can perfect all other relationships in our lives.
Jesus doesn’t want to be “first” among all of the relationships that make our life good. He isn’t looking to compete with anyone. Instead, Jesus wants to be so central to our lives that He becomes a part of every relationship we have. As disciples, our call today is to make Jesus the center of our lives and to love others with the heart that He shares with us when we do.
This weekend, the Church gains a newly canonized saint: Mother St. Teresa of Kolkata. This little nun, whom many of us here were blessed to watch carry out her ministry in our world, certainly put Jesus first. She would begin her day – filled with the task of caring for the many sick, orphaned, and dying people of the slums – with at least one hour of prayer and adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If she found herself busier, she gave herself two hours! Jesus was the heart and center of everything Mother Teresa did, and those who saw her and were touched by her ministry knew it, because they came to know Him.
However, in 1946, Teresa received a vision of Christ, who called her to serve Him in the "poorest of the poor," in her place of ministry, Calcutta. She founded the Missionaries of Charity and did just that - for fifty years. After her death, we have learned from her letters and her spiritual director, that the time on that train in India was the last time she ever really felt the presence of God in her life in a real way. This is Mother Teresa! Her ministry is a perfect illustration of what Jesus talks about int he Gospel: of the man who does;t begin to build unless absolutely certain of the foundation and the ability to complete the task. Mother Teresa knew this - even when she was experiencing the "absence of God."
When we place Christ at the heart of our lives, then our marriages, our role as parents, our ministry as workers in the Church – everything – changes and is lifted up. This week, let’s take some time in prayer to see how we can look at all of our relationships and responsibilities as disciples of Jesus – seeing everything through the lens of Christ’s life. When we do, everything changes; everything encounters Jesus.
Our beautiful St. Teresa knew this and showed us what it looked like. Mother Teresa said once, "We have to carry our Lord to places where he has not walked before. Therefore the sisters must be consumed with one desire: Jesus. Speak of no one but him crucified. We must not be afraid to do the things he did – to go fearlessly thorough death and danger with him and for him.”
This is not just a task for consecrated sisters, ordained priests or deacons, or even just canonized saints. It is the task of the person who hears Jesus’ call and responds to it. So, what is central to your life? That will change the world.