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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. The words of Jesus in the Gospel this Sunday are truly shocking. He asks us to hate our father, mother, families and even our own lives in preference to him. It gets worse. We are also to give up all our possessions. OK so he has our attention but what on earth does he mean?

Jesus exaggerates to make an important point – perhaps the most important point of life itself. Namely, that we are to prefer and love God first and then everything and everyone else in His name. For is, Jesus must be loved first and last and everything else must finds its place in relation to him. It is no coincidence therefore that the first of the ten commandments is about loving the Lord our God as one Lord and not having strange gods before him. This first commandment is not just first on the list or one among the other nine. It is the most important commandment of all. If God is not in first place in our lives, then everything else will be off track as well. For if we only love God the same way as we love our families, our sports, our hobbies or friends then he is a false god or idol. This is what Jesus means in the Gospel when he talks about hating everything in preference to him. Everything is relative to God and his will.

Ok so we get the point. But how does all of this play out in modern culture? If God is first place in my life, how is this expressed? An example. Thirty odd years ago, we used to train for hurling every Sunday morning in the summer at 11 o’clock. Why 11 o’clock? Because Mass was at 10 o’clock. Events in the parish were organised before or after Mass but never during it. Today, that is no longer the case. All kinds of events are scheduled on Saturday evenings and Sunday morning. Is this a bad thing? No, but it does require us Catholic Christians to make choices we didn’t have to make in the past. If God is first place in our lives then we have to prioritise the practise of our faith. There is a great need to teach our children this. Are we giving them the impression that God and worship of Him is on the same level as everything else? If so, then they are likely to be part of the great crowds who follow Jesus in the Gospel at the beginning but who fall away eventually.

Being a Christian today is tough but the message of the Gospel is clear. We have to make choices. We can’t be a part-time follower of Christ or Christian by half. Jesus Christ is either Lord of all or not Lord at all. As Jesus warns us, responding to his call will cost us and at times it will hurt. But nothing of value is cheap. The love of God is free but it isn’t cheap. It was bought and paid for at a great price. What is at stake for us is the peace of living good and meaningful lives lived for others and the joy of Christ’s friendship in this life and the next. Give God first place and this is our prize. Love him first and everything else in his name. To conclude with the words of St Paul: ‘Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ…our trials are those through which we triumph by the power of him who loved us’ (Romans 8: 35-37).


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