Christ First

When John the Baptist was still preaching and baptizing, his disciples became concerned about Jesus’ ministry and that people had begun to go to Jesus instead of John. John replies to them, “’No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. He must increase; I must decrease.’” (NAB, JN 3:27, 28, 30)

This Gospel message is a wonderful reminder that our call to follow Jesus and to preach and live the Good News is all about Jesus, not us. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in ministry activities and evangelization that it becomes “our” thing. True ministry is never “our” thing. Serving God must be about him, and him alone. Service comes from a loving relationship for the one we love, not actions and opportunities for us to be glorified, admired, or revered. Today’s Gospel message calls us to check ourselves and remind that Jesus must be first and primary; he is the reason for all we do. He must increase; we must decrease.

Keep from the sin of pride, Lord, and all the other sins that can tempt me when I put myself first. Allow me to become small and transparent, so that when others see me, they only see you, and that in accordance with your will, everything that I do and say brings you, and you alone, everlasting glory. Amen.

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Putting God First

We oftentimes underestimate the cost of discipleship. Today, Jesus gives us what appear as harsh words in one of the most difficult passages of Luke’s Gospel (14:26, 33): “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. … In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (NAB) Jesus seems to be using extreme language, but it is important to understand what is meant by his particular choice of words.

“Hate” is used several times throughout scripture to mean, “love less.” (cf., JGS 14:16; DT 21:15-17) We must be careful to not attach meaning to this language out of context. The use of extreme language is oftentimes a method of gaining attention, and Jesus’ use of the word “hate” draws listeners in and compels them to think carefully about his teaching, considering its deepest meaning. This is most especially clear when we consider the totality Jesus’ teachings regarding love, even calling us to love our enemies (i.e, those who hate us).

Thus, we should understand this scripture to mean that we who are called to discipleship are to place that call above everything and everyone else, including our loved ones, our possessions, and even ourselves – we are to love them less than God. Our relationship with Jesus should become #1 in our lives, supreme to every other connection, bond, and attachment, precisely because it becomes the very foundation for every other relationship in our lives, including how we understand ourselves. Lord, help me to properly prioritize my life, placing you first, seeking you first, and loving you first. Then, I may properly and truly love others, according to your will and for your glory. Amen.

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