View from the Monastery with Father Don, CP

Unless you hate your father and your mother….

What is that all about? Scripture scholars explain that this is a strong saying of Jesus.  It is not about ‘feeling hatred’ toward one’s family,  but about loving Jesus more than we love our family. Is that possible? Is it even healthy?

I would suggest this is about having Jesus at the center of our lives… at the center of our hearts.  In the Gospels Jesus says ‘Follow me’ 87 times. In the New Testament the term ‘disciple’ is found 250 times. The question is… how important is Jesus in our lives? 

Does my life show evidence of the place of Jesus in my life?

One commentator suggests that our politics affect our following Jesus more than our following Jesus affects our politics.

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

By way of further examples in today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple and follow in his footsteps we better know what we are getting ourselves into. To be a disciple of Jesus means more than being a middle income American who works hard, tries not to hurt anybody… and prays every day…  this is good, but there’s so much more.

We are called to be other Christs in our world… The saints understood.

St. Theresa of Avila has this beautiful prayer that describes a disciple of Jesus:

“Christ has no Body now but yours

No hands, no feet on earth but yours

Yours are the eyes through which 

He looks compassion on this world

Yours are the feet with which 

He walks to do good

Yours are the hands with which

He blesses all the world.”

What did St. Francis Assisi pray…

“Lord, make me a channel of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow your love

Where there is injury, your pardon Lord

And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

Where there’s despair, let me bring your hope

Where there is darkness, only light.”

In our Baptism we have received the light of Christ in our lives and into our hearts…  we must give it away.  We can’t hoard it.  We are called to let it shine thru our lives, not put it under a bushel basket. Otherwise it might just burn low and or even die out. Then no one will even know we are a Christian.  We would look and act just like the pagans and unbelievers. 

That’s what being a disciple of Jesus is about…  being other Christs in our world, in our neighborhood, in our school, at our job.

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Being a disciple of Jesus means that we admire Jesus and are devoted to Jesus and try to imitate him in our lives. We live in a culture where it’s always about me: my happiness, my self-fulfillment, my entertainment. We live in a culture where we have to package ourselves to be acceptable and recognized. 

It’s not easy to walk with Jesus. 

It’s not easy to bring the light of Christ into our lives each day. It’s not easy to live as a disciple of Jesus with his values and ideals as our own. Further, I believe that most of the time we underestimate Jesus’ love for us and faithfulness to us. We have to be people of prayer to understand this.

Do you realize it?

This reminds me of a story… This is a story of a friend of mine whose relationship with Jesus has changed his life. He has been a long time retreatant and his spiritual life has been deeply influenced by our Passionist charism…

My friend retired and now lives in the Charlotte, S.C. For some people you are born, you work, you retire, you play golf and you die… Not my friend. Although he plays some golf and enjoys his retirement and not having the responsibilities of working, he volunteers time each week at a local soup kitchen that feeds a lot of the homeless in his city. 

He told me the following story… He got to know some of the homeless…  One day while walking through a park near the soup kitchen he spotted Gary.  Gary was a meth addict and he was high on meth.  He was sitting on a park bench holding his hand and talking to himself.  He didn’t look good – few meth addicts look good. As a matter of fact he looked terrible… shabby clothes, hair disheveled, teeth missing, skin and bones. You get the picture. My friend walked over to him and Gary – that was his name – imagine that – my friend knew his name – Gary held out his hand and mumbled that he had been bitten by a squirrel. My friend called 911. When the ambulance came the EMS folks took one look at Gary and talked about just walking away from this mess. My friend insisted that they take Gary to the ER… after all, Gary was a person and a child of God, even if messed up.  My friend also asked that they tell the doctors that Gary had been bitten by a squirrel. The EMS people loaded Gary into the ambulance and headed toward the hospital. Two days later my friend was helping at the soup kitchen when he saw Gary walking down the sidewalk toward the soup kitchen. He looked a bit better. He had washed up a bit, his hair was combed, and he didn’t have that wild look about him. My friend asked him how he was feeling, and he said, “Better than two days ago.” Then he showed my friend his bandaged hand and said that he had received rabies shots and he was going to be ok. They headed into the kitchen for breakfast together.

What do you make of that story?

Was the meth problem solved? 

Would Gary be ok in the future? 

Was this just fighting an unwinnable war?

Or… 

Did my friend see the face of the suffering Christ in Gary?

My friend realized that the suffering Christ identified with Gary, the lonely suffering man. My friend saw a child of God who had made poor choices and suffered the consequences. My friend knows that God still loves Gary and will never abandon him… as God did not abandon His own Son on the Cross who suffered at the hands of others?

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Jesus is present to us in this Mass. Together with Jesus we will soon offer ourselves to our loving Father.  We will then remember Jesus’ great love for us poured out on the Cross. Then we will invite Jesus into our hearts.

 Jesus is with us to help, to strengthen, to encourage and to enlighten… and to let us know that He loves us.

Thank you Jesus.



Joe Farris