Arthur P. Purcaro, O.S.A.
Saint Augustine Friary
2 Kgs 4: 8-11, 14-16a
Ps 89: 2-3, 16-17, 18-19
Rom 6: 3-4, 8-11
Mt 10: 37-42
Who among us does not recognize the celebrated phrase of St Augustine from the opening paragraph of his Confessions: “You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Confessions, I.1.1)?
Also celebrated, but perhaps less so, is the phrase found among the paragraphs of one of the later chapters of the Confessions:
My weight is my love; by it am I borne wherever I am borne. By your gift we are inflamed, and are borne upwards; we wax hot inwardly, and go forwards. We ascend your ways that be in our heart, and sing a song of degrees; we glow inwardly with your fire, with your good fire, and we go, because we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem. (Confessions, X 9.10)
Augustine is not referring to his weight problem but rather to his center of gravity (gravitas = weight), that very thing which gives meaning and direction to his life.
In today’s Gospel passage, in a few concise phrases, Jesus addresses both the cost and the rewards of discipleship. Although the words may seem harsh, they are meant to shake us out of our early summer torpor in order to remind us of an essential truth: choosing anything with our whole heart has consequences.
Among the consequences involved in choosing to identify our life with Christ we find how this choice necessarily affects the rest of our relationships: how we look at ourselves (am I able to recognize and appreciate my own dignity and worth, as well as the gifts God has given me?); how we relate to others (with whom I am invited to actively search and work for the common good, above and beyond my own personal benefit); as well as my relationship with nature itself, with the rest of God’s good creation, which Pope Francis has reminded us is our common home.
As in the case of Matthew, who was addressing a substantial issue for many in his community for whom choosing Christ brought division to their family, so too today for us, anyone who chooses to follow Christ needs to face up to the consequences of choosing to love in the face of hate, to forgive and pray for those who offend and actively seek to harm me, choosing to follow Christ rather than the latest fad or the current success story.
The choice to love, to allow love to be my weight, that which carries me forward and moves me to the bottom of my being, is made on a daily basis, moment to moment. It is not something achieved through a once-in-a-lifetime ritual or a public statement. Rather, we are asked to give witness with our lifestyle, with our everyday options.
What is it, or rather who is it that we are invited to choose? Accepting Christ includes accepting others, wholeheartedly. Accepting and being respectful to those who think differently than we do, those who hold other opinions, other political or religious ideals, those who are moved by different spiritualities.
Jesus invites us in today’s Gospel passage to be welcoming: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” The virtue of hospitality, of being welcoming, flows from the ability to recognize God present in others, and nourishing that presence.
In the Eucharist we welcome Christ into our lives and we are also welcomed by Christ. We are nourished and strengthened for our journey, to be able to extend that same welcome to others whose lives we come in contact with. This journey is not about what you and I give up, what you and I are willing to sacrifice, but rather what we are willing to share, in the same way that Jesus emptied himself and gave himself entirely in service to us, to build a better world for everybody.
Today, in the face of so many migrants, refugees and exiles, we pray for an openness to God’s presence in surprising and fruitful ways. Today we pray, wholeheartedly, for the gift of hospitality. For a “catholic” Christian, no one is foreign, no one a stranger; we are able to recognize God in one another and welcome God in that person. Let love grow in us and through us, igniting that fire in our heart, which is capable of transforming the world.