Relationships We Keep, Bound in Jesus Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XIII-A, 02 July 2017
2Kings 4:8-11,14-16//Romans 6:3-4,8-11//Matthew 10:37-42

We continue today with our reflections about the ministry and mission of Christ’s modern disciples. Last week the Lord taught us to fear no one who could destroy body but not the soul. Today He is reminding us how the relationships we keep must always be bound in Him, the primary consideration we must take in our love and service, in our dealings with one another. Jesus said to his apostles: “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 his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”(Mt.10:37-38)

The Lord is not asking us to turn our backs from our parents or family. In fact, He is strengthening the fourth commandment which is “Honor your father and mother.” If we examine the Ten Commandments given to Moses in the Old Testament, the first three pertain to God while the rest to our neighbors. All our love is based on love of God from which flows our love for others that must first be directed to our parents before anybody else. It is the first expression of our love for God that it is the only commandment with a promise, “I shall bless you in your old age, says the Lord.” Simply put, we love our parents and everybody else because we love God. Without God, we could not truly love. The strongest ties among people are the ones bound in God because human love is imperfect. Only God can love us perfectly that when our love for one another fails, His love fills in the needed mercy and forgiveness, understanding and kindness. This is what our Sunday readings are reminding us today: that we never lose sight of God in our ministry and love. It is called hospitality.

True hospitality is recognizing Christ in others, that we welcome them in the name of Jesus, according them with love and respect, kindness and care. The first reading tells us a beautiful story about true hospitality rooted in God. The prophet Elisha had befriended “a woman of influence” in Shunem who would always invite him to dine in her home whenever he would pass by the place. Eventually, she asked her husband to have a room for Elisha where he could stay overnight for his missionary journeys because “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God.”(2Kgs.4:9) See how her hospitality is rooted in God alone. Not a trace of malice can be found because the woman does everything in the name of God. Later in the New Testament, Jesus Himself would also have some leading women of Israel pooling their money and other resources to help in His ministry. They welcomed Jesus because He is the Christ. In our relationships, problems arise when we accept people not because of God, especially with priests or “men of God.” How sad that nasty talks and rumors exist, even persist among people identified with churchmen because some
of them have lost sight of God as basis of their ties.

Worst things happen when we priests forget this basic truth of seeing God in the people we serve.
Again, we return to our first reading when Elisha asked his servant Gehazi how they could repay the generosity of their hostess: “Can something be done for her?”(2Kgs. 4:14) Very clear we could find here how Elisha had maintained safe distance with his benefactor, of not being too close for comfort with her to know everything about her! And that’s because Elisha knew so well that God is the reason of his friendship with the woman of Shunem. When we priests and lay people who are all disciples of Jesus Christ lose sight of Him in our lives especially in our ministry, then we also stop welcoming each other in the truest sense. Opportunism and manipulation get into the picture, destroying the friendship that has become a mask for selfish interests. That is when our relationships as disciples become symbiotic as priests and laypeople with bloated egos feeding on each other’s selfish needs set aside God and the poor in our ministry. What happen next are church projects borne out of mere caprices without any missionary or apostolic values at all. And lest we forget, the sex scandals that still plague the Church today is largely due to our failure, even refusal, to see Christ in the people we are supposed to serve. When we lose sight of God in our relationships, then we do not live up to our baptism into new life in Jesus Christ as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading. We become self-centered as if we are gods, that everything in our lives is due to our own merits like our success, our achievements, and everything even our salvation! Without admitting it, we have become
“little Nietszches” imprisoned in our belief ‘God is dead’ and we are a superhuman. And that is when we get totally loss in life. Always find Jesus in the people around you and you shall find loving, forgiving, understanding,
and caring easier to do especially with those we must love most like parents and siblings.

In the June 19, 2017 issue of TIME is a refreshing article, “The God Squad” that reports how millennial priests and seminarians are “remaking the Church” in the US with their fresh new perspectives in life and ministry. Though the article did not discuss the centrality of Christ in the lives and ministry of the new generation of Catholic priests and seminarians in the US, it somehow offered one of the key elements still needed in responding to the call of discipleship: that we see Christ always in the people we serve and the people who serve us. When we are possessed by that love of God in our ministry and service, seeing Him always among the people, then we can truly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ not only in words but most especially in deeds. A blessed week ahead to you!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan