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In the Gospel, Jesus says that our relationship with him is more important than our relationships with our family. “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,” he says.
In Semitic usage, “hate” here doesn’t mean we must despise our family members . It means that the love we have for God should be different in kind from the love we have for other human beings. For God, we are willing to do anything and change everything. For human beings, we can only promise so much.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul continues this theme. He writes to Philemon about his runaway slave Onesimus. Since Onesimus is now a Christian, Paul wants Philemon to release him; but he knows this will be hard for him.
St. Paul, by pointing out that Onesimus is the equal of his master, helped put the Church against any institution of slavery that would say otherwise.
But in our day, we can apply St. Paul’s instructions to Onesimus and Philemon to our own attitude toward work. Just as Jesus points out that our obligations to God are greater than our obligations to family, St. Paul points out that our obligations to God are greater than our obligations to our employer or employees.
How to balance it all and make God the primary recipient of our attention?
There is one person who exemplifies this new relationship with God that supersedes all others: The Blessed Virgin Mary.
Her “fiat” to God was complete and total. “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” she said, and with that, she consented to become the Mother of Christ, making the incarnation possible. In so doing, she transformed all the plans she had for her life: Her betrothal to Joseph and her apparent vow of virginity had to stretch to incorporate God’s new call.
Throughout her life, she remained a model of the new relationship we are called to in Christ: Her seven sorrows tested and deepened her, culminating in the crucifixion of her son when she was given to the Church as our mother.
At Benedictine college, ever since the school was consecrated to the Blessed Mother in 2013, we have been contemplating Mary in a new and heightened way. Each year, the college focuses on her especially on the Sept. 8 feast of her Nativity. This year, the 100th anniversary of Fatima, the college will devote a daily rosary to her at Mary’s Grotto.
Contemplation on — and consecration to — Mary is a sure way to make our relationship with God the fundamental relationship of our lives. One human being did that better than anyone else before or since: The Blessed Virgin Mary.
Photo: Mary’s Grotto at Benedictine College lit blue for Mother Teresa Days.
America’s Media Summit is Nov. 18 and 19 at Benedictine College. Join Raymond Arroyo, John Allen Jr. and others to ask “After the Election: What Next for Catholics?” More information.