Dear Brothers and Sisters,
These verses are from Sunday’s Gospel: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children…and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:26,33)
To follow Jesus means, above all, renunciation. It means to deny oneself. It is far from an absence of moral restraint. Jesus is not undervaluing or down-grading human affection. Jesus wants to be preferred above all other people even those dearest to us. He wants to tell us he alone is the source, foundation and guarantee of true love. Love for him must have first place.
He is the first real and true treasure in life! Although material goods are necessary in life, we have to use them with the greatest detachment. Greed by contrast is the same thing as following a false god. To aspire after earthly things is to conduct ourselves as “enemies of Christ’s Cross.” (cf. Phil 3:18)
A Kim Zarif tells this family experience of how the simplest way to renounce is to “give”: a giving that brings joy to others: My mother, sister and I used to spend every weekend with my grandmother, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She was a first generation American, who spent her weekends preparing food baskets for the priests in her parish, cleaning the rectory and volunteering in the soup kitchen. Many times she would take the coat off of her back and put it over a homeless person sleeping on the ground and walk the rest of the way home shivering. She said nothing — she was a quiet witness.
Raising my children with my husband, who is not connected to his faith tradition, and living in a resort town is quite a challenge, but I try to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and be a quiet witness, too.
Putting others first has always been a consideration in our home. We always have an extra place at the table to remind us of those who went without food for that particular meal. Volunteering at various food pantries, soup kitchens or homeless shelters has always been a part of our family’s life. As my children got older, and they had summer jobs, and friends, they still knew there had to be time for giving to others.
As a family, we worked together and found more creative service projects. For instance, in the summer, my children each donate $10 a week and take turns coming with me to local produce stands, buying fresh produce to take to a local food pantry so that the poor can find healthier food options.
There has never been a time when I have asked my children to go with me to our local homeless shelter and they have said no. I know that may be unusual. But reflecting about this, I think it is because teens need to see authentic witnesses who live the message without finger-wagging or preaching. Since I like doing what I do my children always hear about my stories at the food pantry or my work at the parish, and I think it is taking root in them at some level—as did my grandmother’s life in me.
I cannot say what will happen to my children once they are finished with college. I know it will be up to them to continue nourishing their faith. But for now I can see the social teaching of my faith firmly rooted in each one of them and influencing their dreams for their future lives, and for that I am grateful.
God Bless You,