Family Values

So what does Jesus have against families?

His parents were saints! He seems to have had a great extended family and lifelong relationship with cousin John. We’re led to believe he had an ideal relationship with his father and followed in the family business. When it counted most it was his mother who stood by him.

If you go to church this weekend you’re likely to get a very different impression. The saccharine images of Christmas greeting cards are gone. Forget any recollection you have of Rafael or Botticelli. No Madonna and Child this weekend!

Today is the official start of summer. Maybe the people who set-up the Common Lectionary think we won’t notice — church attendance is way down at this time of year. Here goes:

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. (Mt 10:35-36)

Really makes you want to run off to church, doesn’t it?  Or, maybe run out of church! Who needs this? I am absolutely certain this Gospel will not be selected for use by the Catholic bishops at their Synod on the Family in October!

But, wait! Words of my dear, deceased mother — the one who insistently trucked the family off to church every Sunday — come to mind. This is a time when she would interject her invariably profound, “You know, life is strange.” Because, it just is!

Our family flunks the Holy Family test. For generations we have wrestled, not always successfully, with alcoholism. Marriages in our family end in divorce at the same rate as the culture as a whole. We have a sibling who has turned into a recluse and ignores overtures even for some minimal communication. Need I continue?  You can likely supply your own list!

This Gospel surprisingly became Good News when I actually heard the introductory lines: “A disciple is not above the teacher… it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher.” Jesus is teaching what it means to be a follower. No, these are not marching orders for apostles — the message we eventually will be sent to proclaim!  We’re not adequately prepared for that yet.  Remember: the word disciple means a student!

This is our apprenticeship where we need to learn the discipline of what it means to be a disciple. Remember the setting… this is not the Sermon on the Mount preached to the masses. The setting much more resembles what a coach would say at half-time to a team at the World Cup: “Okay, team, we are in the match of a lifetime. This is about all the marbles. Here’s what we need to do. Play hard! We can win this! Don’t lose focus… remember why we’re here!”

Tough as it may sound, this is exactly the message this Christian apprentice needs to hear. Life is strange! Keep your eye on the prize. Keep your priorities straight! What’s really important?

This is precisely the message our congregations, cities, corporations and nation need to hear as well. When we get these priorities straight, we will finally be prepared to proclaim with confidence and conviction: Gospel of The Lord!

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