February 2009 – God First

What do you think of this? These words make extreme, unheard-of demands! Yet, that Jesus who said that marriage is indissoluble and commanded us to love everyone, and especially our parents, that same Jesus is now asking us to put into second place all the beautiful affections we have here on earth, lest they become obstacles to our direct, immediate love for him. Only God could ask so much.
Jesus wants to tear us away from our natural way of living and wants to bind us to himself above anything else so that he can bring about universal brotherhood on earth.
Therefore, wherever he finds an obstacle to his plan, he “cuts,” and in the Gospel he speaks, in a spiritual sense, of a “sword.”

He calls those who have not known how to love him more than mother, spouse, and life itself, “the dead.” Do you remember the man in the Gospel who asked if he could bury his father before starting to follow Jesus? Jesus answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead” (Lk 9:60).
Perhaps you might be afraid when confronted with such a demand. Perhaps you would like to limit these words of Jesus to his own time, or address them only to those called to follow him in a special way.
You are mistaken. These words hold true in every age, our own as well. They apply to all Christians, including you. In today’s world you will find many opportunities to put this invitation of Christ into practice.

Is someone in your family opposed to Christianity? Jesus wants you to bear witness to him or her with your life and, at the right moment, with words, too, even at the cost of being ridiculed or slandered.
Are you a mother whose husband is asking you to have an abortion? Be obedient to God and not to humans.
Does somebody want you to join in an activity whose goals are suspicious or even wrong? Break off with him or her.
Has a relative offered you money obtained illegally? Maintain your honesty.
Does your whole family encourage you to enjoy the many things that the permissive world has to offer? You need to break with this so that Christ's presence in your life will not withdraw.

“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.”

Are you from a family of non-believers? Did the fact of your conversion to Christ provoke division? Don’t worry, for this is the result of living the Gospel. Offer God the anguish in your heart for those you love, but don’t give up.
Did Christ call you to himself in a special way, and is now the moment when the total gift of yourself demands that you leave father and mother or even your fiancé?
Make your choice. There is no victory without a struggle.

“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.”

“… and even his own life.”
Do you live in a place where persecution is a fact and where being a Christian puts your life in danger? Take courage. At times our faith can ask even this of us. For the Church there is never a real end to the age of martyrs.
Each one of us, in the course of his or her life, will sooner or later have to choose between Christ and everything else in order to remain an authentic Christian. So your turn will come too.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t fear for your life. It is better to lose it for God than to lose it forever. Eternal life is a reality.
Don’t be afraid for your family either. God loves them. If you are able to put him first, one day he will come and call them with the powerful words of his love, and you will help them to become, with you, true disciples of Christ.

By Chiara Lubich

An integral version of this commentary has been published in: Chiara Lubich, Words to Live By, New City Press, 1980.

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