Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows:
‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.
‘Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.
‘Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.
‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.
‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’
There was a certain unrelenting quality to Jesus’ statements in the Gospel heard at Mass yesterday, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The first of them challenge commonplace preconceptions of what is good and right and proper in human relationships.
Family first… But also look after yourself…
Jesus might not seem to give any justification for his statements. They can seem like simple assertions that stand and fall on their own merits.
Yet the point is that, for the believer, the disciple, they stand because of the authority of the one who makes them – he who is the truth, the way, and the life. Something of this becomes apparent as we try to listen to and understand what he says.
Let’s look at the last three. Those who welcome the disciple welcome Jesus. As Paul emphasised in the second reading yesterday the disciple and the Lord are united, are one, through God’s grace, manifested and made effective in baptism. Our reaching out to others is a reaching out to the Lord, in his Body the Church, and will be rewarded.
Our relatinship with Jesus is the foundation of all that follows, and it has a priority he is the source and ultimate destination of all that is. Nothing, without him, could exist, let alone flourish and last. And if we know this – if we know Jesus at depth – then, of course, we give precedence (even preference) to the Lord over all else.
But this is not a competition! Jesus is not wishing to push family and friends and all into second place, into the shadows. They are after all his gift, a sign of his blessing. He simply but forcefully reminds of the ‘new’ order of life in him. We cannot live without God, and live best when we know this and live accordingly.
Sculpture. Moscow Metro (c) 2015, Allen Morris.