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,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Gospel this weekend Jesus tells a parable as he noticed how people invited to a banquet were choosing the places of honor, giving this insight about those who wish to enter the kingdom of God: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When we look at someone with hostile eyes, it means from the outset we are ill-disposed towards that person. Pride is a barrier to seeing reality accurately. Prejudices are blinding. We are looking for faults, and will be disappointed if we don’t find them. We don’t give the person a chance to prove himself or herself. We have already made up our minds. Even if we can’t find any fault with what he or she says or does, we can always cast doubt on his/her motives. We are not disposed to learn anything from that person because our hearts are closed…
Jodi was riding home on the subway, the man next to her was reading some papers and began talking to her about them. As she listened, he became eager to share his convictions with her.
Soon after, he started criticizing many dogmas of the Catholic faith, especially about Mary, the birth of Jesus and the Eucharist. “At first she was prepared to fight over it but she stopped herself — would arguing with him because she was angry resolve anything? St. Paul said, “See that no one returns evil for evil, always seek what is good both for each other and for all.” (Rm 12:17) She decided to simply hear him out without responding in anger.
So she just listened. When he said something misinformed about Catholicism, she would calm herself down and try to understand his viewpoint, listen and ask questions. She noted good qualities in him: his loyalty to his family, his search for truth, and his struggle to move ahead after he was released from prison
After about half an hour, he opened up and things became more at ease, even smiling at each other honestly. She felt she should let him know she was Catholic. He was shocked but they parted on good terms as he stepped out of the subway. As she got ready to leave the train a few stops later, a man who had been following the whole conversation caught her eye, smiled and nodded as if to give a thumbs up. She had felt through the conversation that God had touched both their hearts. Even in adversity, through others we can come to better know ourselves. Humility helps us to be sensitive to what is unpleasant for others and to be compassionate.
God Bless You,