Stretching the Limits Love
Eric Hollas, OSB
Sermon delivered on 13 July MMXV
School of Theology, Saint John’s University
This passage from the gospel according to Matthew is deeply disturbing, for obvious reasons. The words of Jesus seem remarkably callous when they suggest that we toss aside love of father and mother in order to put God first. There is in this command a faint echo of God’s demand that Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac, as a test of loyalty.
Jesus speaks these shocking words to make one serious point. It’s important to love father and mother and brother and sister, and Jesus does not intend to overturn that. But if these are the limits of love in our lives, then how is the Christian different from the pagan?
Jesus asks us instead to put God at the center of our lives, and all else will be given us besides. If we can put the love of God first, then from there it’s an easy step to putting love of neighbor right up there with love of parent or child. That, after all, is what Jesus was trying to encouraage his listeners to do.
Jesus asks that we stretch ourselves beyond purely family interests, and to include in our family the neighbor whom we like and perhaps even the neighbor whom we don’t. Only then will we realize that the true extent of our human family is greater than anything we ever imagined.