As the brand new religious education director at St. Barbara I had just met Angie when she enrolled her daughter in the first grade. We had had a lengthy conversation about Angie's story and her serious health issues. I was inspired by her courage. In the second week of the program I conducted my annual parent meeting. A week later, Angie excitedly said she couldn't wait to share a story with me. She had been invited out to breakfast with a group of women who had just heard me speak at the parent meeting. One of the women complained saying, "I don't think I like this new director." Angie asked her why. "Because he is telling us that our faith is more important than all of our other family activities." Angie told me how she had responded to the woman. "Think about what you just said." After a long pause the woman said, "Oh my! I think I do like this guy."
I want to emphasize that this story is not about me. However, it clarifies this week's Gospel:
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. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." Matthew 10:37-42
Keep the context of Jesus' words in mind. He has mentioned division, persecution and even death as He prepares the apostles for their ministry to the lost of Israel. "...more than mother and father...daughter or son?" Can you imagine the thoughts of the apostles? "Wow, people aren't going to like this message." But the reality is that some did accept this challenging message from Jesus. And Jesus makes it clear that for those who do so, the reward is great!
Angie had the courage to help the woman see past my words to the core of my message. But it's not about me. Or you. Or our families. It is about Jesus Christ. He must come before all else. Once we place Him there we can courageously proclaim Jesus' message to all.