Tuesday of the 25th week of Ordinary Time – Lk 8:19-21
In today’s brief Gospel, Jesus gives what seems like a rebuke to His family members. His mother and brothers, which we can take to mean cousins or any male relative, search for Him, and yet He replies, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” We can consider two points, and apply them to our lives: first, the sacrifice that is asked of us and of our families, and, second, the greatness of our call.
Regarding the first, it’s simply a fact that following Christ, particularly in the religious life, means a certain distancing from our families. This might be in the physical sense, meaning that we’re not in the same state or even the same country, but particularly in the sense of ordering our affections for them. Later in Luke’s Gospel, we’ll hear Christ say: “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters . . . he cannot be my disciple.” That hate doesn’t mean to loathe or despise; rather, it’s the way to say “love less.” Anyone who really wants to follow Christ, has to love Him more than anything else. Otherwise, our love for Christ plays second fiddle to something else, and that other thing becomes the center of our lives and our attention.
This doesn’t mean that we stop loving our families; on the contrary, that love is reordered towards the highest goal: helping them get to heaven through my prayers, sacrifices, and example. The saints understood this well. For instance, Saint Charles de Foucauld wrote that “My greatest sacrifice was being separated from my family. Once I was in the Trappist abbey, I suffered a great deal. It wasn’t the community that made be suffer; indeed, all were very good with me. Rather, it was the thought of my family that tortured me. At times, I said within myself: always, always; never, never. Always to live here, never to see them again.” Writing to his father, Saint Theopane Venard told him: “I cannot help longing for you, and missing you terribly sometimes; but love suffers and is resigned, and the thoughts of Heaven grow more vivid as we become more detached from all on earth. Only a little more trust! A little more confidence in God! A little more patience! And the end will come, and the past weary years will seem as nothing; then will arrive the moment of reunion, and all will be amply compensated for and repaid, principal and interest.” The saint clearly loves his father, but that love is ordered, because it subordinates it to the highest possible good, which is God and eternity with Him.
Secondly, however, we also see the greatness of our call. Christ Himself tells us that anyone who hears the Father’s word and acts on it is like His mother, which is no small thing. Saint Bede the Venerable explains this by saying that “they who hear the word of God and do it, are called the mother of our Lord, because in their daily actions or words they bring Him forth as it were in their inmost hearts.” They give birth to the Savior again. Likewise, as we minister to others as religious and priests, and even as lay people, parents, and children who pray and work in charity, we also help them to bring about this birth in their own lives. As Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote, “The life of the priest . . . is an Advent which prepares the Incarnation in souls.” “The life of the priest . . . is an Advent which prepares the Incarnation in souls.”
Today, we ask, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, for the grace to be like Mary, a mother who brought forth a Son for the world, so that the world might be redeemed.