30 September 2009

All About Focus

In today's Gospel we hear Our Lord speak some very challenging words. Typically, as Catholics, we are not wont to read Sacred Scripture only at its literal level, allowing room for the Holy Spirit to move our hearts closer to what the inspired texts are intended to teach us. It is hard to hear our Lord say to the man who wanted to bury his father, "Let the dead bury the dead" and to suggest to the man who wanted to go home to say farewell to his family, that he is not fit for the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes we associate this Gospel passage -- and those who are represented in it -- with people who have made a dramatic change in their lives in order to follow Our Lord more closely. Those of us who have left our families to enter a religious community or, perhaps, those who have left behind a way of living which was incommensurate with the Gospel -- we might be among those who could be pictured in dialogue with Jesus in today's Gospel. This text, however, speaks to all of us who have chosen to follow Jesus. It is not about forsaking family and foregoing the corporal acts of mercy such as burying the dead. Rather, it is about our focus: do we do all things in Christ, with our eyes cast upon Him or do we do them for other motives.

When we leave our families in order to enter religious life -- in the case of our community -- we do go home and say good-bye and we even visit periodically after we have entered. This reading is about how we do the things we do. Whether we do corporal acts of mercy such as burying the dead or feeding the hungry we must examine our motives and keep our eyes on the Lord. "Setting our hand to the plow and looking back" is about looking away from Christ and losing focus. Let us pray for the grace to keep our hands on the plow and our eyes on the Lord.

Perhaps a quotation from our constitutions will shed light on how we strive to live this particular passage of the Gospel:

"If the sisters leave relatives sand friends and all that they have loved in the world, it is not in order to cease loving them but to prefer Jesus Christ, and in Him to love them with a stronger love."
Constitutions Chapter XII, no. 53

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