News

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflections of the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

What sobering words Jesus offers us in this week’s Gospel:

“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.”

Suffice to assume this passage causes one to retract for a moment. It seems almost too bold, or too radical, and it certainly is.

Since seeking to place Christ as the center of my life and serving him in ministry, I have been blessed to meet a tremendous amount of passionate people. I have encountered people passionate about the faith, and others not so passionate about it. Most of the time these passionate people also share another characteristic. They are dedicated to whatever it is they are passionate about. These two ingredients (passion and dedication) are almost essential to our livelihood, and often how we find meaning in life.  What is it that we are passionate about to the point of dedication? Is it worth our time, or better yet, worthy of our devotion? I am passionate about my family: my wife Margot and our four daughters Mia (7), Marcella (5), Colette (3), and Lola (1). I think they are worthy of my devotion and dedication. 

This is what Jesus is referring to in the Gospel reading today. He speaks to the most important relationships closest to our hearts, i.e. our family, and then says that our love for Him needs to be greater. Letting that sink in is daunting because the radical-ness within his expectations seems almost unobtainable. What we are left with is the recognition that everything we desire, everything we pursue, and every one of our greatest ambitions can only go so far.

Before my wife Margot and I moved to Lakeside we were living in Orange County at a desolate retreat center in the Santa Ana Mountains. It was a very difficult time for both of us. I was not satisfied in my work, and we were living in literally the middle of nowhere. So, while I worked Margot was home with our daughters alone. This would not have been a bad thing if I did not come home exhausted from my work and more often than not frustrated with our situation. Our home life struggled, as did our relationship. Remembering this time in our marriage still makes me uncomfortable. We were not in a good place. However, a very wise priest offered us some spiritual guidance with these words: “You cannot fully love your children unless you love each other, and you cannot fully love each other unless you first love God.”  I have never forgotten those words. They speak so poignantly to today’s reading from Matthew.

When we have passions that are not rooted in Jesus Christ, our lives do not have an eternal purpose. If we seek riches, luxuries, and notoriety, we are not going to be fulfilled. This is the difference between being people of hope, and being people of the world. God is a God of order, and we must never forget who we are and whose we are. It is after this recognition that we are to pursue those passions and dedications with Him at the center. Those things that matter most to us now such as our families become ways to glorify Him.

God bless and have a wonderful week!

Patrick C. Rivera