|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at email@example.com.
Commitment to the Team
September 4, 2016
At the first gathering of the high school football team, the coach gathered the squad around and said, “Now if you are not willing to live, eat, sleep and breathe football for the next season day and night, you may as well go home. I’m not interested in having you on the team.”
We do not take the coach literally, do we? After all, we cannot actually eat football! We cannot breathe football! This is hyperbole; it is a well-known rhetorical device to state something in a very extreme way to make a point. 1
In today’s gospel, we hear a Semitic hyperbole from Jesus which was common in that time among teachers. Jesus does not literally want us to hate our mother, brother, sisters; or to leave everything to follow him, nor does he want us to denounce everything to be his disciples. That would be counter to Jesus’ primary commandment to love everyone as he loved us. We cannot love and hate at the same time. We need to dig a little deeper to understand what Jesus is trying to communicate.
Most scholars believe his point is more about being really serious about our discipleship. It is not enough to believe, but we need to change our lives and make the commitment. Just like the coach trying to inspire the young footballers, we need to have full commitment for the team. Jesus is saying that as Christians we must be very serious about the commitment to discipleship, and we must know that there is a cost to discipleship. There will be tough choices to make. Our commitment is to love at all times, and there is definitely a cost attached to that reality. Sometimes it requires incredible sacrifice, and at other times it is a natural flowing from our hearts to whomever it is that is in need.
Marriage is a great metaphor here. Over those years of marriage we have plenty of opportunity to love one another. Some of those days have been wonderful and easy where the love flows from your heart just like water from a tap. But there are other days where it has been really hard work; where you have sacrifice of your very self for the good of the other. When they were sick and desperately needed your love and attention. When they lost that job and lost all confidence in themselves and you were the only one who chose to still believe in them. You continued to love them when they desperately needed it.
In any love story, we cannot know all of the commitment ahead of time. There are going to be times when it requires incredible strength to love, and there are other times when it is going to be easy. But the difference is the commitment to love at all times.
No matter what comes, Christ asks us to have that steadfast commitment to love. Just like the commitment to play a sport, our discipleship is a commitment that we renew every single time we come to the table. And today we commit once again.
(Endnotes) 1 Jim Auer, “Celebration: An Ecumenical Worship Resource,” (Kansas City, Missouri: National Catholic Reporter Company, Inc., September 5, 2010).