“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…” (Mt 10:37).
“We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that…we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:4).
If there’s a common thread that connects the above statements from this Sunday’s gospel and second reading, it is the severity of what each demands of us - one seeking the subordination of family relationships to those in God’s Family, the other commanding in us a complete rebirth of self.
As years go by and my relationship with God continues to deepen, it has become more and more obvious – sometimes painfully obvious – to me that the way I live and the values I seek are becoming more and more difficult to fathom, to put it mildly, for many members of my biological family. It isn’t that our relationships have turned sour or adversarial because of my Catholic beliefs. Far from it. If anything, we are only getting closer as we age, sharing a deeper and deeper appreciation of our unique family bond. In fact, for many of them, my determination to live a life with meaning and purpose is something that commands their respect, even if such meaning and purpose are things they cannot relate to or share completely. But there is no denying that our different religious beliefs, or lack of it for some, are causing us to approach life and see things in very different ways.
Growing up from an oriental, patriarchal culture where traditional Confucius family values are dominant and the parent-child relationship of sacred and supreme importance, it’s hard for some family members to understand my Christian disposition that sees my relationship with God as central and all-encompassing. My parents, to whom I’m forever indebted, had always respected my religious beliefs and continued to love me even if such beliefs and theirs did not always jive. Still, looking back so many years later after their departures from this world, I must admit that their respect and love for me were not without some regrets – regrets that somehow some things were less than ideal in our relationship because certain values and expectations of ours were different.
St. John Paul II said, “The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family” (Letter to Families, n.23). Family is in many ways a “training camp” where we learn to iron out our differences with love and tolerance so that we are better prepared to live in love in the heavenly Family of God, the Father. Sometimes the “training process” has become so rough and rigorous that our family may even begin to look more like a battle ground filled with “shell-shocked and injured soldiers” than a sweet and safe home base as it should be. But persist we must where God’s revealed truths and values are at stake, trusting that the willingness of all family members to submit themselves to God’s guidance will somehow bring understanding, respect, and love powerful enough to overcome all conflicts and differences. Let’s “battle on” as family members - with love; persist in our family way - in faith; and look forward to joining God’s Family in heaven one day – out of hope.