THE fundamental question we Christians should ask ourselves is: What difference does our faith in Jesus have in our lives? Any affirmative answer would strengthen our belief in Jesus and our allegiance to him. It would also keep us following him and convincing others to do the same. And it would inspire us to keep supporting the Church’s mission of evangelization.
Indeed, can we say that our faith in Jesus and love for him keep us firm in facing life with all its uncertainties and challenges? Can we say that it’s what gives us joy in life and the wisdom to make some tough decisions? Can we honestly say that without our faith in Jesus, we would have faltered or given up fulfilling our responsibilities and pursuing our dreams and goals? Can we say that being part of a Christian parish community has been a supportive experience?
If our answer is yes, then we have all the reason to testify to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, to proclaim Christ’s love and power in our lives. Furthermore, we would do everything to support those who continue his mission on earth.
The difference that Jesus makes in our lives is how we must understand the Gospel this Sunday. In this Gospel, Jesus told the vast crowd following him this bold and shocking statement: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
The word “hate” that Jesus used is hyperbole to indicate his expectation from us who follow him: total and single hearted dedication to him and his teachings. Family relationships and possessions are subordinate to the following of Jesus and whatever cross-bearing. Priority in Christian life must go to a relationship with Christ, and all other considerations, even those of family, are secondary.
We can find concrete examples of total dedication to Christ among fellow Christians, particularly among lay people. Some married couples have given up a prosperous livelihood to serve the poor in Latin America, Asia, or Africa. Others make room in their homes for unwanted or parentless children at a considerable personal sacrifice. And some are less consumerist and more simple in their tastes to help God’s poor.
There are also parents and their children who prioritize church participation and Mass attendance on Sundays. They come to Church because of their love for Jesus, their faith, and their commitment to putting God at the center of their family life.
Like the author of Psalms, may we all declare, “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.” Amen!
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.