Dear Parishioners and Visitors: please enjoy this guest column by Fr. Peter Tyner. —Msgr. Richard
Last Sunday we heard Jesus telling his disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” We can safely say that this is one of Jesus’ harder lessons. Death is terrifying for us all. Yet, we are called by Jesus not to be ruled by this terror. Instead, we are told that we should be afraid of losing our relationship with God.
This Sunday, Jesus has some more hard things to tell us. We are to love Jesus more than our family. This can be shocking to us if we really let it sink in. We do so much to build up our families, and yet they are not to be our first priority. As shocking as it can be for us, it would have been even more terrifying to the apostles when Jesus preached it to them. In Jesus’ time, your family was your sole support. Neither King Herod nor the Romans were going to provide for you if you were injured, sick, jobless, or broke. People in ancient Galilee had only their families to turn to in their hour of need. Jesus was truly asking his apostles to take a risk, and we are being asked the same.
Jesus also asks for generosity, both for the prophet and the disciple. In general, this means supporting our local church, which carries on the ministry of prophecy, and supporting each other since we are Christ’s disciples. Once again we feel uncomfortable. We have all heard about tithing and being generous, and all we support others doing it. Yet, when the opportunity comes for us to give, we can be pretty stingy with our excess resources. We often hear a voice inside us questioning, “What if I give now and do not have enough in an emergency? Who would help me if I cannot help myself?” So we give only scraps and store up our resources just in case.
Such hard sayings—where does Jesus come up with them? Do we really have to go out on such a limb to please him? What Jesus is doing is telling his apostles and us that we need to live out the Ten Commandments. Remember that the first three commandments deal with our relationship with God. We are to have no other gods before him, we are to reverence God and his holy name, and we are to set apart time dedicated to God. It is after this that we are told to honor our parents and then others through the remaining six commandments. The message is that while family is indeed important, it merits its own commandment and it follows our first duty of getting our relationship with God right.
Placing other concerns before God is idolatry. That is hard to hear, but it is simply the truth. It does not come naturally for us because we all worry what it would mean for us. Such a reprioritization of our lives worries us. What is needed, of course, is faith—faith that the God who sent us Jesus Christ is a God of love and is a God who will look out for us as a shepherd cares for the flock. If we put God first, our family will be better off. If we are generous, do we not know that others can be generous toward us in return? Such a faith transformed the lives of the saints—consider Saint Francis of Assisi or the American Saints Elizabeth Seton and Katherine Drexel. They trusted, and that trust transformed those around them. We are all called to be saints as well, and all that is needed is trust.
—Peter Tyner, OSB