Carrying your cross … becoming more sensitive to others … is the sweet and sour source of life
Security in life! We all want it, and only some find it. And why do we want security in life? To enjoy ourselves… to be happy & free? To not have to worry about survival, day by day? However, when we reflect on Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, we also realise that security is not the end game – it helps us make progress towards self-actualisation expressed as love.
Those without money, “we” often think money will make us secure. Those who have money might tell a different story. I remember an old man had a hearing problem and the Doctor gave him a new hearing aid. A month later the old man returned for a check-up and the Doctor asked him: “how’s the hearing-aid and are the family happy?” The old man replied, “It’s good. I haven’t told the family yet. In the last month I’ve changed my WILL 4 times!”
Even King Solomon, the wisest of Kings (1st Reading), said: “The reasoning’s of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable;” meaning, I think, that human beings keep changing the fundamentals of their lives to try and recover happiness. We see this in the world today, people demanding that the Church has to change it’s moral teachings to “get with the times”.
These demands, however, are driven by the increasingly “individualistic” mindset of people as wealth increases. Our greatest security is found in Community. And Community requires work to build relationships which are both giving and receiving.
The great gift of the Gospels, and Christ, is how they teach us to give without expecting in return, and receive with gratitude. The increasingly secular world is becoming more contractual: I’ll give you this if you give me that. Of course, there is a place for that in business, BUT, in our social lives it will not lead us to true self-actualisation as love.
Brian Tracy, a Canadian motivational speaker, says: “Successful people are always looking for ways to help others, unsuccessful people are always asking: ‘What’s in it for me?’“.
Our world is becoming more and more violent: at home, at work, in the streets, between countries. At the same time, true community is fading. Our economy is now geared around child care, working on Sundays (the traditional family day), and reducing respect for what others think: I’ll do what I want and you have to accept it because it’s my right!
Unfortunately, the false sense of security found through individualism, material things and money, is the leading us away from the fullness of self-actualisation as love: it constructs self-centredness as the goal, and we ultimately fail to find true love; and then blame others.
Security, security, security… what gives us true security? Today’s Gospel gives us a clue… Following Christ is a battle: “what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand?”
The true enemy that I face is not God or other people, but myself. In the Eucharist, unlike ordinary food, Christ does not break and become part of us; rather, when we receive Christ in the Eucharist, it is us who must break down (change) and become part of Christ.
The struggle with unhappiness in life is that resistance to breaking down to become part of Christ, who is the revelation of God’s love for us.
If we think of the word “hate” in the modern context of usage, we’ll find these readings a bit stupid. However, language changes over time: the use of the word “hate” is about priority. And, not just priority, but strict and emphatic about it. Some sources indicate it’s derived from Greek for “care, grief, funeral rites, mourning, connection by marriage“.
To find security in following Christ it’s all or nothing. Being part-Christian just doesn’t work. Think about married life, it’s all or nothing. Part-time marriages always fail. So, what we hear in the Gospel is not really strange at all.
Finally, Jesus also makes a statement that is not very inspiring or encouraging in it’s plain form: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI (2-Sep-2019), explains it this way: “the more sensitive you become, the more pain will seep into your life. We catch the connection then. A sensitive person suffers more deeply, just as they also drink in more deeply the joys and beauties of life.”
To come closer to God requires continuing transformation to greater sensitivity for the sufferings and needs of others: reaching out beyond “my mother, my brother & my sister.”
By Gerard Conlan, OMI