The year I decided to enter seminary; my Grandfather took a turn for the worse. At the time I was afraid that he would pass away and it would interfere with my first days at the seminary. Unreasonably I thought they might not let me go to my grandfather’s funeral if it happened within the first few days. He ended up passing away, and we had his funeral a couple days before I had to report to the seminary. If it had been a few days later, I know I would have been permitted to go. While the seminary demanded a lot of the students, matters like a close family member’s funeral would take priority over almost everything.
When I began to look at the readings for the weekend, I began to think to myself what if I were put in a similar situation where I had to either choose between something extremely important to my family, or doing something God was calling me to do but would take me away from my important family matter? Would I be willing to choose to follow God’s will for my life even if that meant making his will a priority over a family matter?
That is what our Lord is challenging those following him to in what we just heard. Another way to think about this is what is the cost of discipleship, which is the cost of following our Lord. We need to seriously take our call to follow the Lord in our own lives. If we want to enter the kingdom of God, if we want to have fulfillment in our lives, we need to challenge ourselves to follow him and ask ourselves how far I am willing to go in my relationship with the Lord?
The words our Lord uses in the readings can be shocking. Does God want us to hate our family members even our own lives? Jesus isn’t saying that we must hate our family, our spouse, our children even our own lives to follow him in this life. Instead Jesus is using exaggerated language to get his followers to begin to think. Jesus simple but difficult message is that God should be our top priority even if that means putting him in front of our relationships with our family, our spouse, and even the well being of our own lives.
Jesus too challenges us to renounce all our possessions. While some will take this literally for most of us, we are not called give up all of our possessions. I’ve moved a few times in the last couple of years, and every time I move, it makes me think. Do the possessions that I have mean that much to me? Should I try and live simpler and get rid of some of my possessions, so I don’t have to bring multiple carloads every-time I change assignments in my priesthood?
God wants us to make him our top priority, and too he wants his listeners to know that if we want to become his disciples the cost is high. We must be willing to let go those people and things who are close to us. We may never have to let them go or get rid of them; however, if we are detached from them, we can if we need to.
What does this look like in our own lives? How can we work to make God more of a priority in our lives? I believe making prayer a priority in our lives is a good first step. Prayer is the ultimate medicine for our spiritual lives and spiritual journey’s. By putting prayer front and center, we are making the things of God a priority.
For me prayer is like a cup of coffee in the morning. If I miss my morning prayers I feel out of place. If prayer is not something that is a regular part of your life, then don’t be discouraged. Start small, read a book on the Catholic faith, or read a small portion of the bible every day, or even pray a couple decades of the rosary.
We, too, should make God a priority in our daily lives, not just the times that we come to Church. Even small ways of incorporating God into our daily activities can be a big help for us. Do we pray before meals? Do we say a short prayer before going to bed, or when waking up in the morning?
We too can make God a higher priority in our lives by going to daily mass more often, by going to confession regularly. The sacraments help us make God our top priority and to help us to detach from things that are not of God.
Finally, we detach ourselves more and more from our possessions and things. First, and most importantly, we can give alms to the poor and the needy. Even the small act of donating to a charity can help us detach ourselves from our possessions. You may remember the widow’s mite how she gave up everything she had. She may not have given that much, but the small amount she gave was everything. Our charitable giving isn’t so much about how much we give but rather the importance of that object to our lives.
God doesn’t want us to hate our family and friends like the way we think about hate. Rather, Jesus wants us to make him our top priority. As we continue our Journey’s with the Lord may we trust in his merciful love for those times we don’t make him our top priority, and through his grace may we see him face to face in heaven!