Both Hearing and Listening to the Words of Jesus
One of the pitfalls it’s easy to fall into, when we come to Mass every week, is that we can fail to pay attention to the meaning of the words of Jesus. They become familiar to us, like the words of a song we like, so we hear, but fail to really listen and internalize the amazing things that are actually being said.
Today’s Gospel has a few of such passages: Whoever loves father, mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”, and “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me”, and “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. We have heard these sayings of Jesus many times, and yet do we allow these words to penetrate our minds, hearts and actions?
These are certainly some of the harder sayings of Jesus and they certainly appear harsh. Because of their harshness we may prefer just to hear the words, but not really listen to them or put them into practice in our journey in life. Do we prefer anything or anyone to Him or do we distain having to bear certain crosses in our life for love of Him?
We may want to look upon the Gospels only as something comfortable and comforting, nice and familiar, and those bits that don’t fit in with that concept are really going to challenge us. The harder sayings of Jesus speaks of difficult choices we may have to make in life and brings home to us in very real ways what the difficulties of following Jesus and “carrying the cross” might look like. But as these hard sayings remind us of the cost of discipleship, they can also help us to discover, or rediscover, the immensity of the gifts which He gives to those who follow Him.
If we ask ourselves why we should love Christ more than others and be willing to shoulder the various crosses we encounter in our life, then hopefully this will bring us to reflect more deeply on the promises of Christ to those that faithfully follow Him. Every saint went through such a process of discernment. Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Clare and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga among many others, chose to follow our Lord and His Gospel instead of their parent’s wishes. Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint Rita among many others, accepted the many and various crosses they encountered for love of Jesus.
Read about any Saint and you will see that they put God first and accepted the crosses they were given. It wasn’t easy, but as Saint Paul reminds us: I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith. The victor’s crown of righteousness is now waiting for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on the day that He comes, and not only to me but also to all who eagerly wait for His appearing.