“I don’t like that Gospel.”  Not surprised that was my Italian Mother’s take on it as we got into the car after Mass this morning while on vacation.  I wasn’t surprised.  Hearing Jesus say, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” probably strikes many people, Italian or otherwise, as Jesus continues, “whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” is jarring.  “I know the deeper meaning,” she quickly added lest I start to go into a catechetical apologetic, “I just don’t like it.”  I smiled and just kept my mouth shut.  Which was probably for the best since on the tip of my tongue, “It’s a good thing we didn’t hear St. Luke’s version of this teaching.”  (In case you’re wondering, Luke quotes Jesus saying, “If anyone comes to me without hating father and mother…” – we’ll save that for another day)

Thanks so much for stopping by to read this homily for the 13th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME -JULY 2, 2023.  I’m away on vacation, so this was just some musings written from the beach 🙂 I appreciate your sharing this on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing- Father Jim

Understandably, people bristle at those words.  Why is Jesus being so utterly dramatic?  It seems so unnecessary when we look at how many relationships are undermined by division and competition.
As the day continued and we ventured to the beach, some people nearby had their umbrellas, tents, and chairs all situated.  A friend pointed the group out to me and said, “what the heck is that?” Part of their setup included a flag pole and some flags.  But they were totally foreign to us.  They had names, numbers, and colors for someone and something I had no idea who it was in support of.  I remarked that by the styling of it, it had to have been for a race-car driver.  “Who would go through the trouble of flying the flag of a race-car driver out on the beach?” my friend asked.
It was an interesting follow-up as this Gospel and almost a day-long homily in real time was being played out.  Who’s flag are we flying?
Or to put it another way – What are we most passionate about?  What is it that defines who we are, what we do, how we do those things?
There’s nothing wrong about this fan of a race-car driver who went through the trouble of carrying the flag and putting it up, flying it and retiring it at the end of the day.  They clearly demonstrated their admiration for someone who entertains or fascinates them.  What Jesus is getting at, though is how does our following Him rank?  How is our discipleship demonstrated to the world?
So, back to my Mom, even though St. Matthew put it more gently than St. Luke, Jesus is not telling us to “hate” our families to prove our love for Him as if his ego is so fragile that we need to assure Jesus that he’s number one compared to those others.  He, who we confess is the way, the truth, the life ultimately encompasses your favorite race-car driver; as well as Mother, Father, son and daughter.  He is in short, our everything.
If we truly believe that, these dramatic sentences wash over us.  Because we know that His love is the bar on which every other love is measured.  That the things that matter the most to us, the people who matter the most to us are first and foremost gifts from Him, and meant to give us glimpses of the perfection of our life in Him.
If those sentences shocked and troubled us, then they are meant to be an invitation to reflect on why?  Because if God is not our everything, something or perhaps someone is – which eventually will let us down.
There’s a great prayer from a Jesuit priest by the name of Fr. Pedro Arrupe that is a favorite of mine and speaks to this – it goes:
Nothing is more practical than finding God
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
May Jesus be our everything.  May His flag be the one we fly… May His love help us love mother, father, son and daughter more than we could ever on our own.  May our love for Him, enrich and transform all that we are passionate and dedicated to that He is glorified in every one of our pursuits.