Sem. Ronald Calderon
In one of the most striking moments in the recent box office hit, Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman's love interest, chose to courageously pilot a bomber plane and safely detonate the hundreds of bombs bound to London, sacrificing his life in the process. Trevor chose to offer his life to prevent the plane to send the bombs to Britain and at the same time spare the innocent civilians near the vicinity of the military base from being killed. His heroic choice to take his life and even a possible future with Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) in exchange for a reality bigger than himself and his relationships is a noble selfless act. It is something that in the history of Christianity has taken place in the lives of countless martyrs from the 1st century to the present who chose death than to deny Christ as a central figure of their lives. This priority of Christ in the lives of saints is what Jesus invites us to make in the gospel reading today.
The gospel reading says: “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 the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” It means that even our most valuable earthly relationships should only come in second of our relationship with Christ.
In his 1989 World Youth Day message, St. Pope John Paul II explained to the youth the priority of Christ.
Yes, Jesus is for us a way that leads to the Father - the оnlу Way. Whoever wants to reach salvation must set out along this way. You young people very often find yourselves at a crossroads, not knowing which path to choose, which way to go; there are so many wrong paths, so many facile proposals, so many ambiguities. In moments like this, do not forget that Christ, with his Gospel, his example, his commandments, is always and alone the safest way, the way which leads to full and lasting happiness.
Today, the confusing and complicated distortions that the saint pope was mentioning preoccupy modern life. People young and old are now living two realities, the tangible temporal life where the reality of work, studies, rest and recreation takes place and a Social Media life where fantasy mingles with reality. This mingling is a jungle of information, genuine and fake, that leads many astray to believing that the path of Jesus is one of many paths we can take. Because of technology, our relationships are extended to far distant lands and with peoples of different cultures and ethnicity but they diminish time we could have given to the relationships that are really important. Pope Francis acknowledges this situation in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and connects it to our capacity to know the good, “We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment.”
The Church stands firm in echoing the message of the gospel in giving the utmost importance of Christ in Christian life. The church believes in faith and love that our life is more valuable than we think. Human beings are so valuable in the loving eyes of the Father that Christ, His only Son, died a brutal and humiliating death so that our frail and sinful human state could be purified by his blood.
So isn’t it worth our love and commitment to choose Christ? He is the key to true happiness and peace. Indeed, Christ is like the pearl of great value that compels us to great heights to sell everything in order to buy it. Moreover, what is wonderful in making Christ the center of our lives is that all our other relationships and commitments are put in proper perspective because of it. Family ties are strengthened and inspired, friendships are valued and respected, communities are brought to harmonious accord and even the marginalized in society are supported and given importance. Many Christ-centered individual would testify to improvements in their human relationships after they allowed Christ to become the priority in their lives. Bp. Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California explains in an interview for Word on Fire that this is because all our many relationships are in truth within our greater relationship with God.
Furthermore, the Church is helping us remember through the power of the Holy Spirit the centrality of Christ in our lives. In the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, Christ is remembered dying to sin and being reborn to eternal life. In the same sacraments, the Holy Spirit sustains the entire community of Christians to continually die in sin and live as one Body of Christ. Hence, it is important for us Christians not just to have a private prayer life but an active sacramental life.
Finally, let us be reminded that living a Christ-centered life will entail many sacrifices and difficulties. Dying to sin means we will be going against the grain of the sinful forces in the world. But even these hardships do not outweigh the joy, peace and hope that living in Christ brings. If the woman who welcomed the prophet Elisha in the first reading received the blessing of having a son amidst her barren condition, what more blessing do you think would be possible for us in welcoming the Son of God in our lives? What more blessing would God allow those who choose and welcome the Christ in their hearts?