Published November 2018
Homily on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 (16th in Ordinary Time)
Reflection on Mi 7:14-15, 18-20; Ps 85:2-4, 5-6, 7-8; Mt 12:46-50
I wonder what Mary and his family wanted to say to Jesus – what was so urgent that they needed to interrupt him while he was speaking to the crowds. Maybe they were embarrassed by him? Scandalized? in Mark’s Gospel, he tells us at one point that they thought he was out of his mind!
Imagine the scene! Imagine yourself as one of those disciples witnessing this interaction! How might you react? Might you be taken aback? Surprised? Comforted?
I think it’s a matter of perspective, how you might react to this; who you are and where you are in your life’s journey affects how you respond. I used to find this gospel confusing. I remember sitting in Church as a youngster and thinking, how could Jesus say something like that? What about “honor thy father and mother”? It fell in line with that other challenging passage, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.” My family is very important to me. I still call my mom and dad every week (I just called them last night) and still, to this day, if I ever miss a call, they will likely lay on some guilt.
My mom’s initial reaction to my joining the Jesuits included, naturally, some trepidation. She had grown accustomed to my being around, coming over for dinner, visiting on weekends. Around town, she was often referred to as “Chris’ mom.” She felt like she was losing me to something she could never be a part of. She felt as if I was leaving our nuclear family to become part of another, more important family, and she was sad. It certainly felt to her like I was putting her and our family second, and it was not a pleasant feeling.
I knew, though, that I needed to follow my heart, and as difficult as the transition has been for her, over time we’ve both come to a greater understanding of what Jesus means in today’s Gospel. My family, our family, has actually expanded since I’ve entered the novitiate. This year, I’ve lived all over the country doing various kinds of work. Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve felt at home. Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve been among family. It’s wonderful. My mother came to visit me in Richmond, VA when I was working at a parish there, and she got a taste of this. She was immediately swept up into the community. She was like a celebrity. Everyone wanted to know her and chat with her. She spent time volunteering in the daycare programs, she came to Mass, she got to know the priests and the staff. And she started to realize that she was part of the family, too.
Right now, this community, this parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Antonio, TX, is my home and my family. You are all so welcoming and inviting, loving and generous. I’m sure my mother would feel the same if she came to visit. And that’s what being Christian is all about. Remember, Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What does he mean? How are we to love one another? Well, as he has loved us. And that’s easy to say, but hard to do.
Because, unfortunately, we love to categorize, to put each other (and ourselves) in boxes; it makes people easier to understand… and, ultimately, to dismiss. Teams, parishes, religious beliefs, schools, hobbies, cliques, political parties, countries, families… They make us feel good when we belong, but they can also make us feel bad when we’re excluded. The thing is, most boundaries are actually just imaginary borders of our own creation, and they tend to engender discord and strife. In truth, our categories end up limiting and dividing us. Thank the Lord, God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts! God doesn’t see things the way we do. God’s love transcends our borders, and he wants to teach us to expand our minds, to extend our borders, and to broaden our relationships. He doesn’t want us to lose, but to gain.
Think about it: the love with which I love my own human family and friends is the same love with which you love your family and friends; why do we think we need to reserve that love for only a “special few”? It’s not like we’re going to run out of love; It’s not like I can spend all my love in one place and then I won’t have any more left over. Love is not like money. That’s the great thing about love — we have it in abundance! It’s a gift that keeps on giving. God’s love, the love that we have been created to share, is infinite.
If his love knows no bounds, neither should ours. Remember, we are called to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies, those we don’t agree with, those who oppose us or who are different from us. We are all part of the same family. In Jesus’ great prayer to the Father, He pleads five times with the Father “that they all may be one.”
As brothers and sisters in Christ, by our baptism we are reborn into an extended family, one that is ever expanding. As we come to communion today, let us pray together with one heart and one mind that Jesus Christ, our Lord, may show us the way to unity and peace by imitating his love that knows no bounds. And let us be thankful that this kind of boundless love allows us to call God our Father and Jesus our brother. How blessed are we! Although we cannot see or touch our God in our zeal to love and serve him, God has given us each other to love in His place.
A poem by Hafiz, a Persian poet, captures the effect of this kind of love very well:
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
“You owe me.”
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.