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. (Matthew 10:37-38)
From the perspective of some of Jesus’ first century listeners, this must have seemed an outrageous statement. Despite His miracles and moral teaching, many in Israel wondered who this man thought He was to make so arrogant a proclamation.
However, from a 21st century perspective, Christians know what Christ's first century audience didn’t. Jesus had the right to say what he did because He is – well, because He is God in the flesh. That is why He has the right to say anything He wants, demand anything he chooses, and require whatever He pleases.
And yet, although we know that, why do so many of us grouse at those requirements? As Catholics, do we not know the Lord Jesus called Peter and subsequent popes to shepherd His sheep? So why do some of us look for other pastures when the Church proclaims its historic standards of holiness? Why do we consider her position on marriage, procreation, abortion, and other matters of morality so outrageous and untenable that we simply ignore them?
In the second and third chapters of Revelation, Jesus repeatedly warns the Church, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear with the Spirit says to the churches.”
The substantive issues of morality and faith they faced in the first century are surprisingly similar to the issues we face. And we do a dangerous disservice to each other when we speak only of God’s love and mercy, without warning about sin, righteousness and judgment.
To proclaim only one and not the other is to, as God said through Jeremiah, “heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially.”