Whom do parents love most?

Matthew Habiger
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 30, 2002
Reproduced with Permission

Whom do parents love most? Their children. Whom do children love most? Their parents. Yet our Lord teaches that if we love our children or our parents more than Jesus, then we are not worthy of him. I suppose that Jesus could also have said "If you love your spouse more than me, you are not worthy of me." What does He mean? Jesus wants us to understand that the one whom we should love most is the one who has done the most for us. Why do we love our parents? Because they shared life with us, because they demonstrated their love by their countless acts of caring for our daily, even hourly, physical and emotional needs, and because they never cease to love us.

Now consider what God has done for us. He created us out of nothing. He gave us this world, and the entire material universe as a temporary home for our lifetime here. His great plan, and hope, for us is that we will prove ourselves worthy of being called into a communion of love and life with Him forever in His Kingdom. And all of this was motivated by his indescribable love for us. He really didn't need us; but He chose to enter into a relationship with us and love us as a Father loves his sons and daughters, as a husband loves his bride. The love we experience in our parents, or our spouse, or our children has its source in God. Without God, none of this would exist.

That is why we say that the most important thing in life is to get our lives in proper order with God. We are to love Him above all others. Only God can satisfy the longings of the human heart. He designed us; He knows us very well. He knows that only the love and life and goodness and beauty of God can fully satisfy our deepest longings for completion. Some people get the important things all confused. They think that the purpose of this life is to accumulate wealth, security, prestige and pleasure. Let the good times roll. But all of us must die. That means we must let go of all these worldly goods; we can't take them with us. They can't satisfy the deepest yearnings of our hearts. It is a good exercise to periodically ask yourself this question: "What will this present pleasure, or this present tribulation, mean to me when I approach the end of my life? If we can view the present moment from the perspective of the end of our lives, then we will have real wisdom and see things correctly. As the psalmist said today: "Blessed is the people who know how to acclaim you: they will walk, O Lord, in the light of your face. Every day your name is their joy, and your justice is their pride."

"He is not worthy of me who does not take up his cross and follow me." This means that no one is spared the burden of the cross. There will always be trials and tribulations in this world. Many of them are unavoidable, but we can help one another to carry their burdens. And some burdens we must simply carry alone, because that is what the good Lord wants us to do. Look at the lives of the saints: Padre Pio, St. Therese of Lisieux, Solanus Casey, Br. Andre. They found meaning in their salvific suffering, and gladly accepted them from the hand of God. Sin and evil is the cause of all suffering. That is what forced Jesus to come into the world as one of us, and undergo his horrific passion and death on a cross for our sake. Jesus teaches us: "He who loses his life for love of me, will find it."

Then speaking of his apostles, Jesus said: "He who receives you, receives me, and he who receives me, receives him who sent me." We see here the direct connection with the first reading. The prophet Elisha was given warm hospitality by a couple in Shunem, and in appreciation the prophet Elisha made it possible for them to overcome their infertility, and they received the greatest gift possible from God: a new baby. God rewarded them for receiving his prophet into their home.

What does this mean for us today? The very same thing. God wants us to receive Him into our hearts and our homes. In the Old Testament, God sent his prophets to speak to the people on His behalf. In the New Testament, Jesus sent His apostles and disciples to the far corners of the earth to speak to the people on His behalf. Today this is especially the role of the priest, the deacon the catechist. In fact, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, wishes to work through all faithful disciples in bringing the truth of God to the world.

Why do we want priests and deacons and religious in our parishes? Because in a very special way they represent God. God works through them. God speaks through them in teaching us His ways. Without the priest there is no Eucharist, no Mass, no sacrament of reconciliation. Without priests there are no missions to the nations and the formation of new parishes. Thus the growing shortage of priests and religious in this country and Canada is a source of great concern for us. We depend upon the nourishment of the sacraments and the guidance of priestly teaching.

"He who receives you receives me, and the one who sent me." Would we welcome Christ's call to our son or daughter to follow Him and dedicate their lives in service to God and His Church?

Perhaps you are thinking that the recent scandal of sexual abuse by a small minority of priests will discourage vocations to the priesthood or religious life. I don't think so. These scandals point out the even greater need today for good men and women in religious life and the priesthood.

At the Dallas meeting of the American bishops, Archbishop Chaput of Denver said that homosexuals in the priesthood should not be viewed as a primary cause of the sexual abuse scandal. The more pertinent issue, he said, has been the history of American priests and bishops succumbing to cultural pressure of leniency on many Church teachings pertaining to sex and marriage.

"We've seen a permissiveness regarding contraception and premarital sex, the archbishop said, and the same priests who allow that can easily slip into giving themselves permission regarding other issues of sexual moralities. It's a spirit that says each person and priest can decide individually what to accept in terms of Church teachings."

Brothers and sisters, any moral crisis is a call to get back to the basics of morality. The bishops and priests are to clearly teach the full moral truth about God's plan for sex and human love. After 1968 and the encyclical Humanae vitae, there was massive rejection of the Church's teaching on contraception and sterilization, both on the part of the laity and the clergy. There has been a grand silence from the pulpit, self-imposed, on these vital issues. For this we priests and bishops must beg forgiveness from you for not performing our God-given duty. Now we are seeing clearly nationwide the results of that rejection: half of our marriages go on the rocks; 75% of our married couples are either contracepting or are sterilized; 80% of young couples are cohabiting before marriage; teenage promiscuity and pregnancies are at record levels, one out of three of our unborn babies are killed by abortion and homosexuality is widely accepted. All of these abuses can be traced back to the rejection of God's wonderful plan for human love, which requires making the total gift of ourselves to our spouse, and an openness to the great gift of the child.

If parents are not generous with God in their openness to having children, and all the self-sacrificial love that requires, then we can hardly expect their children to develop a spirit of generosity either with marriage or with a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.

Our task is to love God more than our parents, or our children, or even ourselves. If we truly love God, then we will keep His commandments. We will want to follow His wonderful plan for human life and human love. We will want to receive His word into our hearts, and receive the messengers He sends to us. Let us pray for the grace and strength we need to repent of our sins, and return to God's wonderful design for love, life, marriage and family.