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Where there is love, nothing else matters

"Great crowds were traveling with Jesus and he turned and addressed them, ‘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. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with 10,000 troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with 20,000 troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple’” Luke 14:25-33. 
    Here, at the beginning of a new calendar year, and not far from the beginning of the church year (First Sunday of Advent), is a very good time to read this Gospel and ask ourselves some serious questions – questions that are crucial to our eternal salvation.
    Jesus addresses his disciples and tells them they need to examine their lives and see if their priorities are in good order. So, ask yourself:

• Is the Lord, his commandments, his teaching (in other words, his way of life), the standard for my personal life?
• Do I take time to reflect; to ask myself whether my priorities, my goals, are in keeping with those of the kingdom of heaven?
• Of course, we will make mistakes, we will fall, but do we get back up again through repentance and begin anew each day?

    Many of us, I would venture at this point, say it’s just too hard to live like that; it is just too taxing, too discouraging, to keep trying because I am not holy enough, I don’t have a saintly personality; I am too sinful, too weak.
    Well, brothers and sisters, it is too hard if we try to do it under our own steam. All the good intentions in the world, all the resolutions won’t make it happen – because our sinful natures war against our soul and too often they win. Then, we settle for so much less than God intends.
    You, by baptism, are a son or daughter of God! Truly! That is not just some kind of analogy. It is reality. If so, then God who is our Father will do everything to help us receive the power, the inspiration, the encouragement we need to make the right decisions, to quickly repent when we fail and rise again ready to continue. But here’s the key to that kind of life: It is love. First, God’s love for us and then our love in response to his.
    I’d like to share something from my childhood: When I was 6, early in the summer, I met the boy next door, who was my age. We became fast friends, but I quickly learned that I couldn’t play with him every day because he had very severe allergies and his family had to regularly take him out of town or to the ocean where the air was better for him. But when he was in town, we walked to school together every day, played together and watched out for one another. The next summer, his family took my friend to the shore again and I missed him. While I was talking to my aunt one day, she asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said promptly that I wanted to marry my friend. But, she said, he is very sick and it would be very hard for you because you would have to take care of him all the time. In all the solemnity a 6-year-old could muster, I replied, “But when you love someone, nothing else matters.” As the saying goes, “Out of the mouths of babes …”
    My child’s heart had captured the essence of a disciple’s life. When you truly love, nothing else matters! Our Father in heaven gave his only son out of love for us. Ponder that for a while. Jesus so loved the Father that he gave his life on the cross – so that you and I could inherit eternal life and be with the source of all love forever. Ponder that. God gave us the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate (our defense attorney). He gave us the Spirit to dwell within us so that we could be inspired and comforted and strengthened and encouraged to love God in return and to love the people he gives us. Ponder that. You are infinitely loved. Ask God to reveal that to your heart – not just to your head. Both are necessary that you might be able to respond to God as a true disciple.
    The cost to reprioritizing our lives so that they are the priorities of the Gospel is high. It costs our flesh a lot, but when we know we are loved and love in return, nothing else matters. Jesus is asking that he be in first place in our relationships. (“Hate” in the Gospel does not mean rejection of others; it means that we put God and his will in first place over all people and all other goals in life.) His commandments, his teaching, are to shape our thoughts, our speech, our actions, our career choices, our state in life, our choice of relationships, etc. 
    We can make good and right choices when we know that we are loved. Allow the Holy Spirit in the silence of your heart to speak of his love for you; give him time and quiet to speak. Once we hear that small, still voice we will never be the same.

Sister Ann Shields

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