Thirteenth Sunday Ordinary Time ( No Audio)
July 3, 2023 •
Due to technical issues, audio was not recorded this week. We appreciate Father Buettner sharing his homily notes with us.
The Hierarchy of Love
Intro: If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we wish Our Lord didn’t teach particular truths, for example:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, or
If you look at a woman with lust, you have committed adultery with her in your heart, or
Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery with her, or
Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction
These are just a few Christian teachings that are uncomfortable; they challenge us; they cut to the heart
And because they are difficult to bear, we are tempted to ignore them or to interpret them in a way that is more comfortable, convenient, and acceptable
In so doing, we rob the teaching of the power to change our hearts and transform our minds. And we can walk away from Mass thinking that it is easy to be a Christian, that we are not in need of conversion and change
Today is a day in which many of us may admit that we wish that Our Lord didn’t say what He just said
Gospel: Our Lord taught us that “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 me is not worthy of me.”
So, what do we do with this?
We can simply ignore what He said;
Or we can interpret this teaching in a more acceptable way
But Our Lord is challenging us to inspect the quality and character of our loves and to make sure that our love for Him takes precedence over all over loves of our life
All of us can be tempted to place familial love—the love for our spouse, or parents, or children—higher than our love for the Lord
Examples: Real examples—only the names have been changed
A young woman named Sara was raised in a faithful Catholic family. She attended Holy Mass with her family every Sunday. After she went to college, she met a man and decided to get married. However, she chose not to get married in the Church. Sara’s parents feared that if they refused to attend the wedding, then they may lose their friendship with their daughter. So, Sara’s parents hosted the wedding in the backyard of their own home. What’s the problem? Since Sara is not married by the Church, she is not married in the eyes of God and has chosen to live in sin. What’s worse is that her parents assisted her to live in sin. Whether they know it or not, these parents demonstrated parents who love their children more than the Jesus and His bride, the Church
I know a young woman, Liz, who lived in Chicago. She was raised in a faithful Catholic family. She fell in love with Matthew, who was not raised in a Catholic family. After a few years, they were engaged to be married. But before they were married, they decided to move in and live together. Liz knew that this decision was contrary to her faith and would be unacceptable to her parents. But she made her decision to live together. When her parents visited her in Chicago, they refused to stay at Liz and Matthew’s apartment; in fact, they didn’t even visit the apartment. Liz’s parents firmly held to their convictions and proved that their love for God was greater than their love for their daughter. Ultimately, Liz chose to get married in the Church
Philip discerned after high school that he was called to be a priest. But his father did not approve. He assumed that Philip would become a successful businessman like himself. Philip entered the seminary against his father’s wishes. For many years in the seminary, Philip did not have the support and consent of his father. But Philip determined that his love for Jesus was more important than his father’s love. His persistence was rewarded. On the day of Philip’s ordination, his father gave a speech at his reception in which he admitted that he was proud of his son and that he loved him.
These are obviously difficult situations that require courage and conviction. Many of us have been invited to weddings of Catholics who have left the Church or who have chosen not to be married by the Church. Do we attend these weddings, show support for their decision?
Some of us have been invited to weddings between two men or two women and perhaps we have family members who struggle with same sex attraction and they want us to accept their lifestyle. Do we attend a wedding between two men or two women?
These situations prove our love: Do we love our parents more than the Lord? Do we love our children more than the Lord?
One final example from history:
Margherita Lotti was born in Italy in 1381. At an early age, Margherita expressed the desire to enter the convent and become a religious, but her parents were determined for her to get married. They arranged for her to marry a man named Paolo Mancini, who turned out to be cruel, vicious, and violent. He was often verbally and physically abusive toward Margherita. He was an adulterer and had many enemies.
Paolo was involved in a family feud between the Mancini family and the Cascia family. In the midst of a battle, Paolo was betrayed by one of his allies and killed.
Paolo’s brother Bernardo encouraged Margherita’s two sons, Giovanni and Paolo, to avenge the death of their father. Under their uncle’s leadership, the two boys became more and more like their father—cruel, vicious, and violent. They were resolved to avenge their father’s death.
Margherita made several attempts to change their minds and give up their plans for revenge. These attempts proved unsuccessful. What did she do? She prayed. She prayed that her sons would die rather than commit murder. Imagine asking the Lord to take your sons rather than commit mortal sin. One year later, both boys contracted dysentery and died. They died before they had the chance to avenge their father’s death.
Eventually, Margherita was allowed to enter the convent at the age of 36. St Rita had a tremendous devotion to the Passion of Christ. When she was 60 years old, a wound mysteriously appeared on her forehead—a thorn from Our Lord’s crown of thorns—that caused her much pain and suffering for the rest of her life. St Rita died of tuberculosis on May 22, 1457.
The story of St Rita illustrates the priority of love. She loved the Lord and His Law more than her sons; and she even prayed that her sons die rather than transgress the Law of God. Why? Because she knew that mortal sin is worse than death. Mortal sin cuts us off not simply from our families, but from God Himself—from the greatest love of our life. And ultimately, St. Rita gives us a beautiful example of love—she loved her sons so much that she wanted them not to be saved in this life, but for eternal life, which is why St. Rita is the patroness of impossible cases, difficult marriages, and parenthood
Many of us need a friend like St. Rita. Why? Because many of us are faced with difficult family situations. God knows what we are going through. And we can be tempted to love our children more than God. But, like Rita, if we truly love them, we would want them to be with the Lord forever—which means that we would want to them avoid serious sin that endangers their salvation.
So if we are honest with ourselves, there are times in which we wish that Our Lord didn’t teach particular truths. Perhaps one of the most challenging teachings was given today:
“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 me is not worthy of me.”
We can ignore this; Or we can assume that Our Lord didn’t mean what He said. But we would be wrong.
Our Lord doesn’t want anyone to compete with His love—not your spouse or your parents or your children or your boyfriend or your girlfriend. Because ultimately, no one loves us more than Him, who demonstrated that true love involves suffering and sacrifice, as He carried a cross for us and sacrificed His life for us so that we could be with Him, along with our family, in heaven.
By: Father Mathew Buettner