I would like to invite you to react to them as people of faith, as people who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The words taken out of context can suggest an attack on family which is a fundamental social institution. So what was the context in which Jesus said those words? Our Blessed Lord was finishing his second discourse. The first one was the Sermon on the Mount. The second discourse, which we find in the chapter 10 of St Matthew, was a mission discourse. At the beginning of the chapter Jesus established the community of the Twelve. Then he sent them to preach the Good News, the Good News he is as the One sent by his Father. After they participated in his mission he summoned them and he opened to them his soul so that they could come to treasure his passion, commitment and determination to spread the Good News.
The passage we have for this Sunday finishes that mission discourse. The passage will be always confusing for those whose faith is superficial. On the contrary the passage will be enlightening for the people who like the Apostles can claim a personal relationship with Christ. Each single Apostle was able to say: “I have met Jesus Christ. He came to me and he invited me to follow him.”
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! If you now think that they were in a better situation than we are two thousand years later, because they met Jesus in person, you are wrong. Just imagine yourself pushing a shopping trolley in a shopping centre and being tapped on the shoulder by a stranger saying: “Leave it and follow me.” Do you think it would be easier to follow him than to accept the faith in Jesus treasured and transmitted by generations of Christians? Those Twelve had their challenges, we have different ones. However, as their challenges didn’t stop them from coming to believe in Jesus, as our own challenges don’t doom us to unbelief.
The first mission Jesus sent his Apostles on was without much preparation. They knew very little theory but they knew something much more important. They knew Jesus Christ. I believe that the first mission they conducted was all about telling people about Jesus, even if they had known him only for a few months.
What happened to them is a reminder to us. My Friends in Christ! Do not wait to gain some sticking knowledge of Christianity to start telling people about Jesus. Even if you know little of him you can still do it. Just make sure that it is yours. That the message you share lives in you and transforms you from within.
I also find in the dynamic of the chapter 10 of St Matthew a remedy for a religious individualism. If you say that you religion is about you and Jesus go to the chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew and read it as many times as you need to include others in your relationship with Jesus. That’s how Jesus trained his first twelve followers. There was no room for religious individualism. On the contrary Jesus formed them into a community and he sent them to evangelise. After two thousand years Jesus hasn’t changed his pedagogy. Those whom he calls to follow him as Christians he forms into the Church and he sends them to evangelise.
Let me finish with a few sentence taken from a letter of a young man who decided to join a seminary in spite a fierce opposition of his family. He wrote to his family from the seminary: “I love you more than myself – more than ten thousand myself, as I would lay down my life for you ten thousand times. You could cut off my arms and legs and not get a single tear out of me, but just to think of my loved ones can bring them forth in abundance.” The name of the young man was Eugene de Mazenod. Did he lie writing those words? No, he was telling the truth. He loved his family but he didn’t narrow his love to what they imagined. Because he loved Jesus Christ his heart expanded. He allowed Christ to enlarge his heart to include others but also to love his relations even more, in a new way. A powerful example can be found in Aix in France, his birthplace and the birthplace of Missionary Oblates he founded. The grave he purchased is the resting place for his parents and the first Oblates who joined him. However it is still the burial place for the Oblates and for the descendants of his only sister. What a Christian example of an extended family! However it wouldn’t happen if Eugene de Mazenod determined his love by the narrow thinking of his family. St Eugene determined his love by the love he discovered in Christ.