SCRIPTURE NOTEBOOK 2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16 Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11 Matthew 10: 37-42 THERE are many so-called "hard sayings" in the gospels and today's command not to prefer father or mother to me is surely one of them. When Jesus follows this with the injunction: Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me, and, anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it, we realise that we are in the heart of the world of gospel paradox. It is not at first easy to reconcile the command to honour and love parents and children wiLh the
further exhortation not to prefer them to Christ, but in fact Jesus is telling us something of great significance to the nature of love itself.
Somewhere deep within human nature seems to be the desire to own whatever we love, to expect something in return, to cling perhaps, to long for appreciation. Yet the love Jesus talks about is a love that sets people free, that lets them be
themselves, that does not demand recognition. It is a love that knows how to give,and to go on giving until there is nothing left to give. It is the love Jesus has for us as he showed in the gift of himself on the cross, the love God has for his creation when he loved the world so much that he gave his only son (Jn 3:16).
For all purely human love is selfish and it is only when the love of Christ takes root in our hearts that it becomes possible to love with his love, to give without counting the cost, to take up one's cross and follow in my footsteps. It is in understanding something of
what it means to identify loving with giving that Jesus's words take on their true meaning: anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
The second reading is especially relevant here: when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him . . . so that . . . we to might live a new life. For baptism, identified by Paul with faith, puts into our hearts this new life, dead to sin but alive for God, and thus makes it possible for us to love with Christ's love, to set one another free, to learn how to give without counting the cost. But sacraments are not magical. There is still a journey to be made, a heart to be changed, a cross to be taken up, but all to be undertaken with hope and trust for we are alive for God in Christ Jesus.
In the gospel Jesus also tells us, anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man's reward, and the first reading gives us some idea of what this might mean. The woman recognised Elisha as a holy man of God and so welcomed him generously, made special provision for him, and received her reward: the gift of a son. That gift of life gives us some idea of what God has in store for those who try to love himRaphael Appleby