In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks for total loyalty from his disciples! But, total allegiance to what end? As we celebrate the birth of our nation we naturally think of things like the “pledge of allegiance,” the oath we make to our nation to defend her and to stand by her. And, we recall the many brave women and men, down thorough almost two and a half centuries, who have risked and given their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we do.
Jesus was clear that he expected his followers to “be all in” -- to choose him over their mothers and fathers, over their sisters and brothers and even over their daughters and sons. This must have sounded absurd! Given the culture they lived in, they must have asked, who could do this?
To choose Jesus over your family was to make a choice that would mean that you would lose your identity, as your identity was rooted in your family, and you would lose the ones who would care for you in old age, or in the event of illness. Choosing Jesus over your family would mean your future would immediately become much more precarious!
What was Jesus asking of his followers? It seems, give the larger context of the Gospel, that Jesus was asking his disciples to put him at the center of their lives and from this center to move outward to others. These words of Jesus taken in the context of the fullness of his message ‘to love God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves’ gives us insight into what he is suggesting.
If indeed we are able to place Christ at the center of our lives, we will be less self-absorbed, less harsh towards others and more kind and accepting, more generous and loving.
By consciously and reflectively living Christ centered lives we become more and more rooted in our relationship with Christ and ultimately, our relationships with our sisters and brothers then blossom and become fuller and deeper; they can become more authentic human encounters with “the other,” loving them and accepting them as we find them, just as God does.
By placing Christ at the center of my life I prioritize my life in such a way that the priorities of the Gospel become the priorities of my life. In this way, the Gospel values of justice, peace and the integrity of creation are no longer simply “nice ideals to work for” but rather “fundamental imperatives” around which I build my life, create family, and live out my relationship with God and others.
So, this week, let us ask ourselves…am I putting anything or anyone ahead of Christ and my relationship with God that I need to reconsider so as to live a more Christ centered life? How does my relationship with God impact my relationship with my family and with others? How might strengthening and deepening my relationship with God positively impact my relationship with my family and others?