Who is in need of my love? Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
One of the difficulties of a casual reading of today’s Gospel passage is that we can see it as placing a choice before us: either following Jesus or loving our parents and children. There have certainly been individuals or religious communities who adopt a literal reading of this passage and act as if the following of Jesus requires a renunciation of family.
For instance, the language of the constitutions of some religious orders speaks of the members of the community seeing their family as dead to them. And there have certainly been cults and sects that forbid an adherent from associating any longer with their family or anyone from their past life.
However, the Jesus/family relationship is not an either/or matter for a mature Christian. The scriptural reminder about loving God above anything or anyone has to be given flesh. The most obvious way that most of us will give evidence of our following of Jesus is by loving those closest to us, and moving outwards with that love, to embrace even the stranger and our enemies.
There are plenty of illustrations in the Gospels – the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ reminder about loving and praying for our enemies, and so on. Jesus offers one illustration in today’s Gospel with the image of giving a cup of water to someone in need.
How do we show our love for God in our world these days? That’s a question that only each individual person can answer. The way in which I express that love is going to differ from yours, and yours will differ from your neighbour’s acts of love. We all have our own gifts and strengths.
The context in which I live and the people around me will help determine how I can show my love for others. A simple question to ponder is, who in my situation is most in need of my love? That’s probably not a bad question to add to my morning prayer routine.
Who today in my personal milieu is inviting me to give a face to my love for God? That kind of question serves to bring love of neighbour to a practical level.
I’m writing this just over a week into the protests around the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the burning rage that has been growing, moving out from that one incident that was captured on a smart phone, to bring to the surface several centuries of racial injustice.
The focus now is on the USA, but we know all too well that the issues in that nation and experienced all over the globe, even here in our peaceful country. There are many expressions of showing God’s love for those who have been suffering because of the systemic racism of so many of our structures and relationships over so many years.
Perhaps I cannot join in a protest march. But it is inevitable that I have my own experience to reflect on. Have I contributed in any way to racism or sexism or any kind of bias? My sense is that the events that started in Minneapolis are a good challenge for every one of us.
The starting point has to be a humble and reverent listening to the other. Let’s listen today and allow ourselves to discover how we are called to love God in loving our neighbour.