A man's foes are those of his own household

Anthony Zimmerman
For Catholicmind
October 4, 2004
Reproduced with Permission

And a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matt 10:36-37).

Not infrequently prospective converts in mission territories find it literally true that they must choose between Christ and their family. For example, a young lady who had become a housekeeper in one of our houses in Tokyo and had received Baptism, knew very well that she would not be able to practice her religion if she would return to her rural home where other Christians did not exist. She said that she would be married off to a non-Christian and that the family and village would expect her to forget about Christianity and follow the local traditional religion. Even should she occasionally travel to attend Mass at a church in another area, that might work once or twice, but thereafter pressure would be decidedly against that, Sadly, she decided eventually to return to her family and suffer the consequences of not being able to practice her new-found religion, at least not in the open.

Former Prime Minister of Japan Yoshida, a superb statesman revered by the nation solved the problem in an alternate manner. When his wife and children were baptized into the Catholic Church while he was Embassador to the USA, he postponed his own Baptism. He was climbing the ladder politically and realized that it would be impossible to become prime minister if he were a baptized Catholic. But he gave instructions to his wife and children that if ever something occurred that put him in danger of death, they should baptize him immediately. He then served Japan well for many years as prime minister and then elder statesman. Finally, when he retired from politics and felt free to live his own life, he received instructions and was baptized.

Still another lady who had been baptized Anglican decided to keep this secret when she married a Buddhist husband, and thereafter followed his religious practices. But one of her daughters was eventually baptized at a parish where I was assistant at the time. When the mother was near death the daughter begged me to visit her. After my visit she had the courage to kneel before her husband and ask him for permission to enter the Catholic Church. He grumbled but gave permission, and she was joyfully received into the Church before she died. But the funeral was entirely Buddhist style.

More frequently, when the family will not agree that a daughter marry a Catholic, she weeps but follows her husband into the Church, against wishes of her family. Eventually a reconciliation may follow, and the Church makes new inroads into non-Christian territory.

Pray, pray for people in mission territories, for the grace to choose Christ when the choice is difficult. How great a privilege it is for those of us who have been born into Catholic families and had a parish and neighborhood that supported us in the faith. Jesus is patient, but He cannot give up His position as Creator of all people, and as founder of the kingdom of heaven. Therefore full submission to His call is the response that we all owe to Him, even though the family become alienated thereby, whether temporarily or definitively. "Discipleship is a total commitment that places Jesus and his mission above family ties. Love for parents, relatives, or neighbor is not to take precedence over love for God and God's purpose" (International Catholic Commentary, 1289).

St. Jerome observes well that Jesus does not command us to cease loving our parents. Rather, we must love them, but not love them more than Jesus.

JEROME; Because of what He had said, I am not come to send peace but a sword, &c. that none might suppose that family affection was banished from His religion, He now adds, He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. So in the Song of Songs we read, Order love in me. For this order is needed in every affection; after God love your father, your mother, and your children; but if a necessity should occur that the love of parents and children comes into competition with the love of God, and where both cannot be preserved, remember that hatred of our kindred becomes then love to God. He forbids not to love parent or child, but adds emphatically, more than me (Harmony CD, Thomas).

In other words, children must not let parents block the way to Jesus.

He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt 10:38-39).

Jesus literally put His shoulder to the cross and with great effort walked and stumbled with it up the hill of Calvary. That makes it easier for all of us to do likewise, as each morning and often during the day, we offer our works, prayers and sufferings to the Lord. Jesus promised that we would find life in this manner - eternal life in heaven - and we know that He keeps His promises. Yes, in heaven, that is where we will find our real lives - for ever and ever.

There are basically two ways to bear a cross, one by accepting it, the other by bearing it without accepting it. A good way to test our selves is to sometimes turn to the Lord with a smile when the cross is heavy. Jesus also showed us what to do when the cross appears to be unbearable. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Lord, if thou wilt, take this cross from me. But not my will but thine be done." Twice He prayed, and three times. Then the Lord sent Him strength, and with that additional power, He endured His passion and death. God does not want that we bear our crosses alone and separated from Him, in bitterness and sorrow. He desires that we ask Him for help so that He will accompany us on our way. Simon of Sirene was one who learned to carry the cross by doing so in partnership with Jesus. Isaiah excoriates those who, instead of latching on to the powers of the Lord, want to fight their battles relying on their own strength alone, and so suffer all the more.:

All of you kindle flames and carry about you fiery darts; Walk by the light of your own fires and by the flares you have burnt! This is your fate from my hand: you shall lie down in a place of pain (Isaiah 50:11).

A good prayer in times of affliction, one that calls upon God for help and protection is this; the Church uses frequently in her Liturgy: "Guard me, Lord, as the pupil of your eye; protect me under the shadow of your wings."

He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward (Matt 10:40-42).

By encouraging the apostles that who receives them, receives also Jesus and the Father, Jesus indicates that not all will reject them, but that there will also be those who receive them willingly. Their reward will be great, because thereby they become hosts to Himself and to the heavenly Father. That is no small privilege. We might say that as soon as any person receives and welcomes messengers of God and their message, they become temples, they become cathedrals where God dwells. The world utterly changes for them when they henceforth dwell with God and God with them, first here on earth for a time, then in heaven for eternity. Giving a cup of cold water to a disciple, because he is a disciple, is a service of faith that God notes with approval. It is a gesture of unity in the faith, of acceptance into one's heart of the believer. Jesus equates for this purpose prophets and people who are righteous. Charity is the trade mark of the kingdom, in which people recognize each other as believers and bind themselves to the union of the Mystical Body of which Jesus is the Head.

St. Gregory the Great observes that one who supports a prophet and righteous man receives a reward of the kind that the beneficiary receives, because he participates in the good work of the other: "He who has of this world's goods, in supporting such a man, makes himself a free partaker in his righteousness, and shall receive the reward of righteousness together with him whom he has aided by supporting him. He is full of the spirit of prophecy, but he lacks bodily sustenance, and if the body is not supported, it is certain that the voice will fail. Whoever then gives a prophet food, gives him strength for speaking, therefore together with the prophet shall receive the prophet's reward, when He shows before the face of God what bounty he showed him" (Harmony CD). Today we apply this wisdom by supporting those who do the work of the Church, the pope, the bishop, the priest, and staff, and so participating in their work and also expecting to receive a reward with them.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed to teach and to preach in their cities (Matt 11:1).

This verse should really be long to chapter ten because it brings to a close the instructions of Jesus to the apostles, and indicates that they now began the work of preaching on their own, while Jesus also went alone instead of in company with the apostles. Chrysostom observes that so long as Jesus was with the apostles, no one would go to one of the apostles to be cured of illness or have the devil driven out. While the apostles set off to try their new powers, Jesus began again to preach again to the crowds that came to hear Him, having ended His special teaching session for the apostles exclusively. We wait to hear, then, how things went with the apostles on this, their first teaching experience while they were on their own.