Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Yesterday, I spoke about rebooting our faith, looking at Jesus with fresh eyes and looking at our relationship with him in a new way. Today’s reading gives us a good reason why that reboot is not a bad idea, because over here Jesus spells out what is required of his followers in no uncertain terms. It isn’t easy listening, but then listening to Christ is never easy. Not only is he shockingly radical, he expects us to be as well in the way we think, speak, and act.
The first thing he makes clear is that he is numero uno — number one. We cannot place anyone or anything before him. Our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our children, everybody — they are all secondary when it comes to him. And the reason for this is simple. We will always listen to the one we love the most, and if we love somebody more than we love Christ, we will seek to please them rather than our Lord. I am sure we all know the truth of this.
The second thing our Lord tells us is that we need to die to ourselves. We need to die to our lust, to our greed, to our desire for fame and power and wealth and importance, because all these things are things of the world. When we accept Christ as our savior, we are no longer citizens of the world; we are citizens of heaven. Consequently, we cannot live with one foot planted in the world and one in heaven. We need both feet solidly planted in heaven.
The third thing he expects of us follows these two. Once we start living like Christ, we have to go out with his message of salvation. This isn’t optional; it is a command. If we call ourselves Christians, we are, by definition, disciple makers. And so we go out as prophets, who speak for God; as righteous people, shining a bright light for God; or as simple followers, being a witness for God. The three are not mutually exclusive; we have to be all three.
Not everyone is going to welcome us when we go out with the message of salvation, but that’s ok. Jesus tells us not to take it personally, because it isn’t us they are rejecting, it is him. But there will be people who open their hearts to the good news we carry to them, and they will be rewarded — just as we will be. I know this isn’t easy, being how Jesus wants us to be, and doing what he tells us to do, but it is extremely rewarding, in more ways than one.
And, by the way, whenever you listen to these reflections with an open heart, you welcome me. Which means you welcome Jesus. Which means you welcome the Father. May your reward be great.