Reflections on the Readings
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 27, 2010, Year C
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis Hankins
He Who Loves God More
"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." - Jesus
Maria. How do you solve a problem like Maria? All of a sudden she finds herself in conflict. Thinking she will be a Nun, she discovers a love for Captain von Trapp; a love she didn't expect to know or desire. Thinking she must hurriedly resolve her conflict, she wishes to immediately 'pledge her life to God.'
Explaining that the love of a man and woman is holy, Mother Superior says to Maria, "If you love this man, it doesn't mean you love God less. Maria is then sent back to the von Trapp family as Governess, to discover 'how God wants her to spend her love.'
Jesus taught that to follow him we must love him more than anything or anyone. Maria's greater love for God enabled her to give herself in love as a wife and step mother. Jesus explained that his disciples learn a greater love; a love that comes before love of father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters or even oneself. (Luke 14:25) Jesus uses the word 'hate' that does not mean in the Jewish culture what its connotation is in English. It does not mean 'lovelessness,' in cherished relationships, but rather 'loving God more,' in the hierarchy of who we obviously love; like a wife and ones children.
Jesus' call to follow him, to not look back, is a far-reaching call to be sure. Peter left his fishing business. On the other hand, Paul took his tent-making business with him, supporting himself while he evangelized the Gentile world. Matthew left the tax collecting business. And lest we think this kind of devotion and commitment is just for priests and religious, Jesus says, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
Paul saw the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus as an all consuming task. It is the task of every believer to embrace this call personally; to be as one who is led by the Spirit. And the end result of being led by the Spirit is to love your neighbor as yourself; through love be servants of one another.
If we love God more than the day before, we will love one another better than the day before. We love one another better when we love God more. In fact, the perfect law of liberty is love, a love that keeps us from biting and devouring one another. The freedom God gives liberates us from the demands of the flesh: enmity, strife, jealousy, anger and dissension. This way of living must be left behind. There's no looking back. To be fit for the kingdom is not to look back.
Remember Lot's wife.
Jesus' demands are typical of the sages of his day. Such leaders imposed an 'all or nothing' demand on their followers. A requirement of this magnitude underscored that what one gains is greater than any perceived loss. In following Jesus one also gained the hope of eternal life in the world to come.
David Biven of the Jerusalem School comments on First-century discipleship: The call to be a sage's disciple in first century Israel often meant leaving relatives and friends and traveling the country under austere conditions. It also meant total commitment. A prospective disciple first had to be sure his priorities were in order.
Working on these thoughts I remembered a song from the church of my youth. You may know it. It is the song "I Surrender All." It was written by a Methodist Episcopal layman in 1896. Struggling with his own successful career as a musician and administrator of high school art, Judson W. Van DeVenter 'surrendered' after a five year struggle to become a full time evangelist.
All to Jesus I surrender; Now I feel the sacred flame. O the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory to his name!
I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee, My Blessed Savior. I surrender all.
Father of all love, enlarge our hearts for Jesus and help us by the Holy Spirit to say yes to him. Amen.