Wis. 9:13-18b; Phlm. 9b-10,12-17; Luke 14:25-33
”If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower,” (v. 26).
When we hear a gospel passage like this, we often find ourselves wondering whether Jesus really meant that we should turn our backs on our families. Or was he exaggerating? Is it really necessary to hate and abhor our parents, family, brothers and sisters and even ourselves in order to follow Him? If we do this, then, our loved ones get angry with us if we follow literally this word of Jesus; we got a problem.
This is a dilemma especially for those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Even the fundamentalist born-again brothers and sisters of ours who preach family values too are also against the literal interpretation of this gospel passage. Jesus was neither exaggerating nor literally. Rather, He was engaging in poetic expression to emphasize the kind of dedication He expected from His followers. These were sayings of Jesus collected by St. Luke about the theme of dedication.
So the phrase ‘no turning back’ used in our gospel has no negative meaning but it has a positive implication. It means that if a certain person says, ‘I like this more than that,’ that he likes this thing as compared to that thing. It does not mean that because he doesn’t like this, he hates this, no that is not the case. It so happened that there is something more than that. According to a drug advertisement: “Good is not good where better is expected.” In other words, God must come first no matter what. God is above anyone else.
We must love God more than others, even more than our parents, family, brothers and sisters. This is a very serious matter. If we meet a conflict between our loved ones and Christ, what should our priority, our family or God?
When I was the school chaplain of Notre Dame of Dadiangas College in General Santos City, I was also teaching at the same. I made an informal value clarification to three college students who were closed to me by the name of Mae, Marycel and Pai. I requested them to write on a piece of paper ten most important persons or things in their lives. After a while, I asked them the three least important persons or things out of the ten, so the remaining was seven. Again, after a while I asked them to erase the three least important among the seven and so the remaining number is four. After reflecting a few moments, I asked them again to erase the two least important ones from the four. In the beginning, they hesitated to do it but I really pressured them to do so, so they erased the two.
Lastly, I asked them to erase the least important one and what remained was only one. I was surprised to find out the result. For Mae, it was family, for Marycel, it was life and for Pai, it was God. What a beautiful value each one of them has in spite of the temptations to materials, still they had the highest values in their lives as young people: family, life and above all God.
God is not in competition with our family, parents, brothers and sisters for our love. He states very clearly, however, that God comes first in our lives, nobody and nothing that become His rival. Giving God the first place, on the other hand, assures us that we practice true love to all people and give each person his rightful place. Jesus has often taught that our love for neighbor is the real test of our love for God. It is mainly in our caring and serving attitude to our neighbor that we cooperate with God’s plan. If we disregard this to please people, it will be a very questionable kind of love we express. We cannot agree to perjury out of our loyalty to a friend or to cheating to benefit our relatives or avenging or killing to meet the expectation of our family. Our love for people can never be an excuse to surrender our love for God.
Sometimes in 1998 Fr. Ross Munasque, the former parish priest of Santo Nino Parish in Bula, General Santos City asked, one Sunday afternoon, a group of children playing at the church yard if they went to Mass. Some answered, ‘yes’ while others answered, ‘no’. He asked them if they are Catholics, most of them answered, ‘yes while the other two answered, ‘no’, because these two belonged to a protestant denomination.
Fr. Munasque asked the two protestant children if they went to church and answered, ‘no!’ Lastly, he asked them, “where are your parents?” One answered, “My father is drinking liquor and my mother is playing mahjong.”
I reflected that if these parents give God as the number one priority, they had to teach these children about God and how to worship Him and relate with Him, but they had other priorities in their lives.
How about you, what is your priority in life? Is it God and His will? If we throw this question to a drunkard, I think his priority in life is a bottle of beer; to a gambler, maybe a set of playing cards; to a playboy, women; for those unchurched people, maybe sleeping, eating, partying, strolling and many more. How about you, do you put God above anyone and anything else?
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C