Homily 13th Sunday Ordinary Time 2nd July 2023
It sounds harsh, “Anyone who loves their father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” It almost sounds as though Christ were proposing some sort of conflict or opposition between our relationship with God and our human relationships, even that closest and most significant in our lives.
But certainly, there is no necessary conflict between our human relationships and our relationship with God. In fact, the quality that marks our relationship with other people is, in fact, the quality that marks our relationship with God. There is a very sacred nature to the bonds of family and friendship, and we must very carefully nurture the strength and intimacy of those bonds.
I think the point is that Christ is urging on us here, as he does so many other places in the Gospel, a true sense of proportion, the ability to distinguish accurately between what matters and what doesn’t.
For any number of reasons, perhaps even quite unconsciously, we can find ourselves attaching tremendous weight to really very unimportant things.
Part of the process, I think, of avoiding such distortion is learning to recognise the difference between one’s needs and wants. Needs must be met. That is every human being’s natural right, and for anyone to refuse to even try to meet the real needs of another human being is of course seriously immoral. That is so not only toward relatives and friends but toward anyone.
The first reading today highlights how seriously Mosaic law taught the moral obligation of hospitality. It was not simply charity to feed and house a passing stranger, it was one’s duty. No one’s rightful needs can be morally ignored.
Wants are a different matter. Wants don’t have to be met. Most of the time life would be more pleasant if they were, more enjoyable, and it is a good thing, a loving thing to meet the wants of other people. But if they are not met, nothing really terrible happens.
Ultimately there is only one real need in life. Salvation. It is the only thing that can ever really last. Everything else, even our deepest and most satisfying human relationships, in comparison, become less important. Not unimportant, but less important.
So, by no means at all is Christ calling us to leave behind or turn our back on family and friends. By no means does following Christ mean resigning ourselves to an earthly life of emotionally empty and sterile human relationships.
Christ is calling us to a right view of our lives, a balanced view, and honest perspective. Christ is calling us to the realisation that nothing is more important than our relationship with him. Simply because it is on that that everything else that is good ultimately depends, and anything, a thing, a person, a relationship that endangers that is simply not worth doing.