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For Your Weekend: Placing Jesus First

Caitlin Bean

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 10:37–42

This past year, my husband and I joined a small group through our church. It was for married couples with young children, and every Saturday, we’d gather together for fellowship, prayer, and some sort of Catholic faith study. One of the couples in our group, Leah and Tim, shared that they were joining the Catholic Church and were currently in RCIA, having grown up faithful Protestants. As the weeks went on and we got to know Leah and Tim better, I realized that their conversion to Catholicism was not without a cost. Neither of their families or friends understood why they were choosing this for themselves, and they had to have hard conversations and deal with distance in relationships. Yet none of this deterred them from their conversion. Despite heartache and strife, they had a deep peace knowing they were following God’s will. Come Easter Vigil, Leah and Tim were fully initiated into the Church, and both spoke with joy about receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. Their lives had been transformed, and they were eager to begin this new life in the Church. 

I share this story because I so admire the courage and conviction of converts. I have often wondered what would have happened if I had grown up in a religion other than Catholicism. As the eldest in my family with a propensity toward people-pleasing and perfectionism, I’ve pondered if I, having encountered Catholicism, would have had the courage to leave behind everything my family had passed on to me to follow Jesus fully in His Church. The truth is, I cannot confidently say, “Of course, I would do that.” My answer to this imagined scenario reveals something in my heart: I sometimes wrestle with putting Jesus above all. And yet, in Sunday’s gospel, Jesus is quite clear that the conditions of discipleship require us to do just that. 

There is little need for interpretation in this gospel reading; Jesus does not splice His words or speak in parables. Instead, He is straightforward. If you love your family, even your children, more than Him, you are not worthy of Him. If you ignore your cross instead of picking it up as Jesus did for you, you are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:3738).

Aren’t relationships good?
Isn’t loving and serving your children virtuous?
Are we not commanded to honor our mother and father?
And what’s up with Jesus needing to be placed first?

It’s not that any of these things are bad. The problem arises when loving and serving people or keeping the peace with them is prioritized above our relationship with Jesus. God has no ego and does not need or want anything. Instead, He knows our hearts and that for us to be the person He intended us to be, proper worship is necessary. Lisa Brenninkmeyer, in the Walking with Purpose Bible study Fearless and Free, explains this concept perfectly: 

We exist to bring glory to Him, not ourselves. He is the starting point of everything. If we ever want to be truly satisfied, our primary focus has got to be on God. If we make it all about us, we will miss the point entirely. Our story is set within His larger story. Only as we see that will all the other pieces (the sorrow, the heartache, the struggle to belong and to feel chosen) make sense. We exist for Him, not the other way around. Does this mean we are cogs in a wheel, unimportant as individuals? No. Does it mean that God created us so that we could follow Him around as sycophants, bootlickers, and brownnosers? Again, no. 

It means God knows that the only way we are going to be truly fulfilled, whole, and satisfied is if we fix our eyes on Him...When we lose ourselves in Christ, we are found. It’s the sure path to safety and significance.[1]

This is a challenging task. It requires us to say no to some things, carve out intentional time for prayer, and ensure that we prioritize attending Mass even when a million things are competing for our time and attention. These conditions for discipleship also ask us not to compromise on or deny our love for Jesus, which can be difficult if family members do not share this faith or are living in a way that is contrary to the gospel. 

But there is good news! The reward for following Jesus is great, which He makes known to us in the second half of tomorrow’s gospel. If you are hospitable to disciples of Jesus, you receive Him and God who sent Him (Matthew 10:40). Likewise, whoever welcomes a prophet or righteous man or “gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” receives a reward (Matthew 10:42). But this works conversely as well. We are called to embody Jesus as disciples, prophets, and righteous women and to be “little.” Thus in showing Christ to others, not only are we found, but others can find Christ in us. 

So, my dear sisters, may we have courage in our convictions by boldly placing Jesus first in our hearts and homes and fearlessly picking up our cross—however big or small—to follow Him. May we be women whose lives bear witness to Jesus by welcoming others into our midst, by never missing an opportunity to perform charitable acts so that people see Jesus in us and receive Him because of our presence in their midst. Yes, let us be willing to lose our life so that we might find it. 

Food for thought or journaling…

Is there something, or someone, in your life that you prioritize over your relationship with Jesus? What is one thing you can do to order this in your life properly? 

Jesus, help me always be your true disciple, no matter the cost.

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Fearless and Free (USA: Walking with Purpose, Inc., 2020), 32. 


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