Imagine a shepherd becoming king. Or one who works in finances as a Spanish teacher. Or a high school student speaking about faith in front of the whole school. Or an extraordinary basketball player becoming a very faithful Catholic. Each one of us is loved by God beyond all imagining. Each one of us is called to do amazing and outstanding things. And each one of us is challenged to allow God to use us to reach out to others and tell them the good news.
Twice in today’s short gospel Saint John the Baptist says, “I did not know him.” This line struck me because there can be a temptation in thinking that knowing a lot about Jesus is the same as knowing him. But if Saint John the Baptist is an example, then we know that we learn more about Jesus when we really know Jesus. Knowing Jesus, having a relationship with Jesus, and seeing that relationship take root when we become disciples of his, is a good goal for all of us.
Mary the mother of Jesus is never identified by name in the gospel of John. And while today’s gospel comes from the gospel of Luke, the message remains: we give the Mother of God such reverence first and foremost because of her tremendous faith. She trusted God. She believed in God. There were days like today in the gospel where she might have wondered about whether or not she was on the right track. But in all of this, her faith, her example, her life, all these things were ordered to God in a way that helped her to understand and know what was most important. May it be the same for each one of us.
Go into any bookstore and find the “self-help” section and there are really an unbelievable number of books. It seems that many have an opinion that doing something easy will make life perfect. And if we are not careful, the Christian life can be reduced to the same “self-help” philosophy. If we go around doing good, we will be better. But Christian discipleship is more than this. It is entering into a powerful relationship with Jesus, and allowing that relationship to change us, perhaps even allowing it to take us where we do not want to go. Jesus is not a self-help guru, but the divine Son of God who heals our sin and brokenness and calls to something more than we can imagine.
The gospel today has an interesting quote from Jesus about the need to hate our parents to become a disciple. Can he possible mean that? The commandments tell us to honor our father and mother. Nothing in the gospels indicates Jesus did not love his mother. The gospel makes much more sense when we understand that the word hate in the Greek world was used as hyperbole to make the main point clear: to be a disciple is very hard work.