The Love of the Lord
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus seems to recommend an inhuman attitude: you are not to love your mother or father or your child more than Jesus. In fact, you are not to love your own life more than Jesus. If you do, you will lose what you love.
What does it even mean to compare loves in this way? If you have more than one child, you can love each one equally, can’t you? Why think that your love of your child is in competition with your love of Jesus? But if it is, honestly, why wouldn’t you love your child more?
Well, think about it this way. To love someone is to want to be united with that person somehow. If your mother sends you lots of gifts but never cares to be near you, you wouldn’t think she loved you, would you? More than that, if when your mother came to visit you, she constantly opposed everything you yourself value, you would have a sense of your distance from her; and that distance would make you feel lonely with respect to her.
And now you can see how loves can be in opposition to each other. If your adult son is selling drugs to teenagers, you can be at one with your son only if you no longer care about those teenagers. But then you will be at a distance from the Lord, because the Lord cares about each one of his people. So in wanting to be united with your drug-dealing son, you would be willing to be separated from the Lord. And then you would not be worthy of the Lord, would you?
The good news is that if you do love the Lord, then you will be united with him; and in being united with him, you will also be united with everyone else united with the Lord. The love you have for your child, the love you have for your mother or father—these all have their full home in your shared love of the Lord.
And that is why the Lord says that a person who loses his life for the Lord will find it. Real union, and the real love, peace, and joy that union brings, are possible only in the love of the Lord.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University