I wonder what it would have been like to sit at the feet of Jesus—or somewhere out in the crowd—when suddenly he’s talking about my relationship with my mom and dad—those people I have been trained to honor and obey as a commandment next to honoring God himself. Did I hear him correctly? Did he really say what I thought he said? Yup. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. How can I love anyone more than my parents? I know that after I marry, I should leave my father and mother to be with my husband, but that’s the only one—and that’s because I will enter into a covenant with my husband. Is Jesus talking about me entering into a covenant with him? I don’t even know him that well!
And whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. I’m pretty sure my father loves my brother more than anyone else in the world—certainly more than my mother and me—and more than God, too. But Jesus’ words are for him, too, even though he’s not following that. My father wants me to tell him what Jesus has been saying when I get home, but I’m not sure I should tell him about today. Does that mean I love my father more than Jesus?
And whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. This is so confusing! First, he’s talking about love, and now he’s talking about a cross . . . I want to be worthy of him more than anything, but I’m not sure I can take up a cross. What can that even mean? Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me . . . And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink . . . he will surely not lose his reward. I know the one who sent him is the Father in heaven. I truly believe that. No one else can heal a man born blind or raise the dead unless he is from God.
So I must believe in him and love him like God himself. I must act kindly to rich and poor, young and old, as if I was serving God himself. That must be the cross because I know I don’t feel like being kind to all those people that Jesus is kind to. He actually talks to prostitutes and tax collectors. Someone even told me that his disciple, Matthew, used to be a tax collector. This is mind-boggling. Truly.
I think that’s how I would react to the words of Jesus. I am so much more blessed than my poor self that sat there listening to him in ancient times. In the year 2020, I have the advantage of knowing of his crucifixion and resurrection. I know that he is “consubstantial with the Father.” I know that anything that I do, it is done to him. Who are those that I have a difficult time being kind toward—a politician, an anarchist, a neighbor who is always stirring up trouble, a parishioner who gossips whenever I see her? How would Jesus want me to love each one of them? Unless I take up my cross daily and act with love, I am not worthy of him.