Today is the twenty-third anniversary of my ordination to the Priesthood in Birmingham Cathedral, a day for which I give thanks. It seemed very appropriate that the Gospel (1) for today’s Mass, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, included this statement by Jesus:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt.10:37)
It is known as one of the ‘hard-sayings’ of Jesus because, at first sight, it seems both overly-demanding and exclusive. Yet, on further reflection, it is also one of the most beautiful and inspiring. For it is a forceful reminder that our gaze be directed to the Heart of Christ, from which every human heart takes its shape and form yet which can become so misshapen. It is easy for us to be misled by those we love – even the most wonderful of human lovers has their faults – and we need to have our own heart, the centre of our being, constantly re-focussed and re-made. And we who are Christians find that the Heart of Jesus has no flaws and longs to re-fashion us in Christ’s image and likeness. So we need to love the Heart of Jesus with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. (Mt.12:30)
And, as if offering a further reflection on the Gospel, today’s Office of Readings includes the Homily Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Philippines in 1970 (2):
“I must bear witness to his name: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt.16:16). He reveals the invisible God; he is the firstborn of all creation, the foundation of everything created. He is the Teacher of mankind, and its Redeemer. He was born, he died and he rose again for us. He is the centre of history and of the world; he is the one who knows us and who loves us; he is the companion and the friend of our life. He is the man of sorrows and of hope. It is he who will come and who one day will be our judge and - we hope - the everlasting fullness of our existence, our happiness. I could never finish speaking about him: he is the light and the truth; indeed, he is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (In.14:6). He is the bread and the spring of living water to satisfy our hunger and our thirst. He is our shepherd, our guide, our model, our comfort, our brother. Like us, and more than us, he has been little, poor, humiliated; he has been a worker; he has known misfortune and been patient. For our sake he spoke, worked miracles and founded a new kingdom where the poor are happy, where peace is the principle for living together, where the pure of heart and those who mourn are raised up and comforted, where those who hunger and thirst after justice have their fill, where sinners can be forgiven, where all are brothers.
Jesus Christ: you have heard him spoken of; indeed the greater part of you are already his: you are Christians. So, to you Christians I repeat his name, to everyone I proclaim him: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega; he is the king of the new world; he is the secret of history; he is the key to our destiny. He is the mediator, the bridge, between heaven and earth. He is more perfectly than anyone else the Son of Man, because he is the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary, blessed among all women, his mother according to the flesh, and our mother through the sharing in the Spirit of his Mystical Body.
Jesus Christ is our constant preaching; it is his name that we proclaim to the ends of the earth (cf. Rom 10:18) and throughout all ages (Rom.9 5). Remember this and ponder on it: the Pope has come here among you and has proclaimed Jesus Christ!”
(1) Revised Common Lectionary
(2) Homily of the late Holy Father, Paul VI, at Mass at the ‘Quezon Circle, Manila, The Philippines, on Sunday, 29 November 1970