DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “WHOEVER LOVES FATHER OR MOTHER MORE THAN ME”
Gospel of Monday, 15th week in Ordinary Time,
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.
(37) “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.
(40)Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
(11:1) When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Matthew (with permission)
34-37 Summary of ideas
- Our Lord has not come to bring a false and earthly peace — the sort of tranquillity the self-seeking person yearns for;
- he wants us to struggle against our own passions and against sin and its effects.
- The sword he equips us with for this struggle is, in the words of Scripture, “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17), “lively and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
- The word of God in fact leads to these divisions mentioned here. It can lead, even within families, to those who embrace the faith being regarded as enemies by relatives who resist the word of truth.
- This is why our Lord goes on (v. 37) to say that nothing should come between him and his disciple — not even father, mother, son or daughter: any and every obstacle (cf. Mt 5:29-30) must be avoided.
- Obviously these words of Jesus do not set up any opposition between the first and fourth commandments (love for God above all things and love for one’s parents): he is simply indicating the order of priorities. We should love God with all our strength (cf. Mt 22:37), and make a serious effort to be saints; and we should also love and respect — in theory and in practice – the parents God has given us; they have generously cooperated with the creative power of God in bringing us into the world and there is so much that we owe them.
- But love for our parents should not come before love of God; usually there is no reason why these two loves should clash, but if that should ever happen, we should be quite clear in our mind and in our heart about what Jesus says here.
- He has in fact given us an example to follow on this point: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49) — his reply when, as a youth, Mary and Joseph found him in the Temple of Jerusalem after a long search.
- This event in our Lord’s life is a guideline for every Christian — parent or child. Children should learn from it that their affection for their parents should never come before their love for God, particularly when our Creator asks us to follow him in a way which implies special self-giving on our part;
- parents should take the lesson that their children belong to God in the first place, and therefore he has a right to do with them what he wishes, even if this involves sacrifice, even heroic sacrifice.
- This teaching of our Lord asks us to be generous and to let God have his way. In fact, however, God never lets himself be outdone in generosity. Jesus has promised a hundredfold gain, even in this life, and later on eternal life (cf. Mt 19:29), to those who readily respond to his holy will.
38-39 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.
- The teaching contained in the preceding verses is summed up in these two succinct sentences. Following Christ, doing what he asks, means gambling this present life to gain eternal life.
- “People who are constantly concerned with themselves, who act above all for their own satisfaction, endanger their eternal salvation and cannot avoid being unhappy even in this life. Only if a person forgets himself and gives himself to God and to others, in marriage as well as in any other aspect of life, can he be happy on this earth, with a happiness that is a preparation for, and a foretaste of, the joy of heaven” (St. Josemaria, Christ is passing by, 24).
- Clearly, Christian life is based on self-denial: there is no Christianity without the Cross.
40 Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
- To encourage the Apostles and to persuade others to receive them, our Lord affirms that there is an intimate solidarity, or even a kind of identity, between himself and his disciples. God in Christ, Christ in the Apostles: this is the bridge between heaven and earth (cf. I Cor 3:21-23).
41-42 Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
- A prophet’s mission is not essentially one of announcing future events; his main role is that of communicating the word of God (cf. Jer 11:2; Is 1:2).
- The righteous man, the just man, is he who obeys the Law of God and follows his paths (cf. Gen 6:9; Is 3:10).
- Here Jesus tells us that everyone who humbly listens to and welcomes prophets and righteous men, recognizing God in them, will receive the reward of a prophet and a righteous man.
- The very fact of generously receiving God’s friends will gain one the reward that they obtain. Similarly, if we should see God in the least of his disciples (v. 42), even if they do not seem very important: they are important, because they are envoys of God and of his Son. That is why he who gives them a glass of cold water — an alms, or any small service — will receive a reward: for he has shown generosity to our Lord himself (cf. Mt 25:40).
SEE AS WELL POPE FRANCIS’ ANGELUS ADDRESS ON THIS GOSPEL HERE
TOPIC 1: DO YOU FEEL THE PRESSURES AROUND YOU AS YOU FOLLOW JESUS?
Indeed, Jesus came not to bring peace but the sword in today’s gospel reading. How difficult and disturbing today’s reading is, especially when a member of one’s family is pitted against another – be it a family of believers or any group espousing a cause or in governance, but most especially, from one’s own blood family. In the first place, we know and call Jesus as the Prince of Peace. In John 14:27, during the Last Supper, Jesus said that He came to give peace to His disciples and that no one can ever take it away from them. And so His words today seem puzzling.
TOPIC 2: Do we really put God as our first priority or is this declaration an empty one?
A man was being wheeled into the operating room for a heart bypass. He was still conscious and was about to be administered injection to sleep and numb him of pain for the operation, when he whispered to the heart surgeon, “Doctor, I am very nervous. This is the first time I will be operated on.” The doctor, who was in his mid-30s whispered to the patient, “Sir, you are not alone. I am also very nervous because this is my first heart bypass operation.”
We all go through memorable first times in our lives. Some of the firsts I will not forget where: my day in school; my first medal in grade school; my first out-of-the country trip which happened when I was already working; of course, my first child – a son; my first love – who eventually became my wife, and a host of others.
Today’s gospel may seem confusing and difficult to understand. One part says, “Whoever loves their father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me.”
God is giving us guidance on how we can attain His heavenly kingdom. For what is more natural and logical than the love of a parent to his or her child? But God is telling us to subordinate this to our love for Him. He asks us to love Him first not because He needs it but because we are the ones who will benefit from it.
Our relationship with God should be our first priority. Part of my daily prayer is: “Lord, grant me the grace to love you first before anyone and anything.”
We can only love others truly and deeply if our devotion to God comes first before anyone. If we put Him first in our lives, He puts the love in our hearts that empowers, reaches out and willingly sacrifices for others the way Jesus carried His cross for us.
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