Sometimes, Faith Feeds Family Feuds

Sunday, June 28 2020, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
•2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16
•Ps 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19
•Rom 6:3-4, 8-11
•Mt 10:37-42

By Marc Massery

Sometimes, Jesus speaks in parables. Other times, He speaks metaphorically. In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, however, He speaks plainly and forcefully. He tells His apostles:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Mt 10:37-39).

Several times throughout the Gospels, Jesus warns of family division that could result from following Him. This is because Jesus calls us to make His demands our top priority, over and above even family loyalty.

Of course, Christ is merciful. He knows that no matter how hard we may try to follow Him, we will fall short at times. But in the end, He presents us with only two options: following Him or rejecting Him.

Following the Lord means living amidst the tension of who we are by nature and who we are called to be. By nature, we are creatures; by God's choice, we are called to become members of His family, a destiny higher than our nature and so supernatural. But we are also fallen creatures that have a natural tendency to choose sin. By the grace of God, though, we can receive forgiveness of sin and become part of the Lord's family. By the grace of God, we can choose what’s right. But living His way is difficult. When we follow Christ, we lose our lives as they once were, as they are by our fallen nature. This is bound to cause tension with those around us. This is why Christ calls this way of life the “Cross.” 

Many people reject the Cross and embrace worldliness. Saint Paul says, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper” (Rom 1:28). Someone whom God has “handed over to their undiscerning mind” feels less tension between choosing right and wrong. Instead, they just about always choose what most benefits them. In their selfishness, they ignore or outright reject Christ’s offer to save them. In their own misguided way, they try to save themselves through sin. 

Hence, Christ’s statement: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39). When we lose our lives for Christ, when we embrace the Cross, we miss out on many of the temporal pleasures the world enjoys. But by losing our lives in this way, we open ourselves up to finding the kind of life Christ calls us to live. Better than the pleasures of the world, this way of life offers us lasting joy and peace. 

But even if all of our family accepts Christ, family division resulting from the serious demands of the Gospel can still happen. Consider the division between St. Faustina and her family. At age 7, she felt called to the religious life. When she was 18, she asked her parents’ permission to enter the convent, but they refused. As a result, for a time, St. Faustina gave in to the world. She says: 

After this refusal, I turned myself over to the vain things of life, paying no attention to the call of grace, although my soul found no satisfaction in any of these things. The incessant call of grace caused me much anguish; I tried, however, to stifle it with amusements. Interiorly, I shunned God, turning with all my heart to creatures. However, God’s grace won out in my soul (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 8).

Saint Faustina, of course, never completely gave in to the ways of the world. She did, however, understandably struggle when she had to choose between loyalty to her family and loyalty to Christ. It didn’t take long for St. Faustina to decide to go against her parents’ wishes and take off to Warsaw, where the Lord directed her to go. There, she would work until a religious order accepted her. 

By following Christ and becoming a nun, St. Faustina lost the only life she had known living at home with her family. But just as Jesus promises, she eventually gained everything back. Years later, when she returned home for a visit, she wrote:

As I was taking leave of my parents and asking for their blessing, I felt the power of the grace of God being poured out upon my soul. My father, my mother and my godmother blessed me with tears in their eyes, wished me the greatest faithfulness to God’s graces, and begged me never to forget how many graces God had granted me in calling me to the religious life. They asked me to pray for them. Although everyone was crying, I did not shed a single tear (402).

By giving her life completely to Christ, St. Faustina suffered under the weight of her cross. But through her devotion to Him, the Lord restored peace within her family. This does not, of course, mean that the Lord will always fulfill His will in this exact way. Sometimes, family divisions never heal. But if you give your life for Christ, He will assuredly pay you back, because no one outdoes God in generosity. 

So don’t be afraid to give your life to Christ as completely as you can. Don’t grieve the loss of worldly pleasures or the approval of others when you turn your life over to Him, either. Over time, you will come to see that He will give you so much more than the world could ever offer. 
  
Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash
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