The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives.


 

Today, the first reading warns us that God does not want any of our sacrifices and rituals if our hearts are not included in the offering.  If our hearts ARE included then we are open to and generous with those most in need in our lives and throughout our world.   God through His ancient prophets sent a very strong message to His people.  I believe it is a message that is just as relevant today as it was back then.  So, what is it that God wants of us? Perhaps it is easier to begin by answering what He does not want from us.  He wants us to stop doing evil.  It is that simple.   He wants us to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan.  He wants us to be clean and pure and to treat all with a sense of mercy and justice.  He wants us to love one another. True love for God compels us to express charity towards our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for His help. As His disciples we are called to be kind and generous as He is. Jesus sets before His disciples the one goal in life that is worth any sacrifice and that goal is the will of God which leads to everlasting life, peace, and joy with God.

In the Gospel we continue to  note that when Jesus spoke about division He likely had in mind the prophecy of Micah: a man’s enemies are the men of his own household (Micah 7:6). The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or anything else above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges His disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that His disciples give Him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies, if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do.

This week in our readings from Matthew’s Gospel we read more about the challenge of being a disciple of Jesus. He calls us to a bond with Him that is even greater than the bonds of family. “Whoever finds His life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus reproaches towns where He worked miracles and the people had not repented. Jesus thanks God that, though the wise and the learned remain in unbelief, the childlike are open to God’s grace and believe. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Taking on discipleship we will find that it is easy and we will find rest in Him. When controversy comes up about His disciples’ picking grain to eat on the Sabbath, Jesus gave a startling response to the judgment of the Pharisees: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus leaves town when the Pharisees want to kill Him to fulfill the Prophet Isaiah: “He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.”

This week, we are invited to place our trust in God as we respond more and more deeply to the invitation of Jesus to be His disciples. Being His disciple means being connected with Him in a bond stronger than any other bond in our life – one which may set us at odds with others. Seeking self-fulfillment will always be frustrating and unattainable. Letting go of ourselves for Jesus’ sake brings a fulfillment beyond our imagining.

It is not enough to be part of a wonderful family or outstanding parish community. We need to make our own commitment. Being smart or clever is not what is required of us. Jesus asks us to be childlike: trusting, dependent, open to learning and receiving. Being His disciples means that we come to Jesus with all our needs, especially for the resources we need to serve Him. It is as companions of Jesus’ own mission that the burden of our mission will become lighter and quite easy. Coming to Jesus will bring refreshment and peace. A sign of our discipleship will never be self righteousness or judging others. What He desires is that our hearts become like his: full of mercy and love. His own heart is moved with pity for those who are wandering, without direction, as though shepherd-less.

Let us pray today and every day for Jesus Christ to become the sun of each of our personal solar systems so that we might radiate his love and power in the dark and wounded spaces of the universe.  Let us pray for each other that all our relationships will begin in Christ – then they will end in Joy.

Allow me to end this reflection by making a humble request.  You all have probably known the relationship between this ministry and Home Sweet Orphanage. Since the beginning of this year, we have committed ourselves to help this Orphanage, a home of 50 young children. We are currently raising funds to buy new beds, mattresses, blankets and the like and to start up a poultry project there. An online auction is  on facebook, click HERE and join the cause. If you can not participate in the online auction, you can send us your gift/donation through YOUTURNS. When you get to the donate page, remember to put this message, “Donation to Orphanage,Uganda”. Thank you so much.

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