The rectory where I live is beautiful. A year ago before the new pastor and I moved in, they painted it all, they put in all new carpet and furniture. They spent thousands making it look better. What they didn't do was look at the infrastructure: the plumbing, the electrical, the HVAC. Unfortunately this can be a metaphor for our own Christianity.
Today we hit one of the most difficult passages in St. Matthew's gospel.
I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household. 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;
This seems to run contrary to how we like to think of the message of Jesus, all about love and family. And it is.
We like to think of Jesus as someone we can turn to in time of trouble, someone who has come to help us. St. Matthew reminds us that Jesus did not come to make you a better person. He came to destroy. Jesus did not come to improve us but to replace us. In each of us Jesus wishes to destroy the old self and replace it with a new self. As Ezikiel reminds us he wants to take away our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. He doesn't want to make your old life better, he wants to give you a new life.
Most of us, deep down, want the impossible. We want both things. We want the new life and the old life. We want to hold on to our old self. We like our old comfortable stuff. We know how it all works. Some of the old stuff is quite pleasurable. It makes us happy. We enjoy it. We want Jesus to come in and redecorate a little. He wants to gut the building and redo it all. And he wants to do it according his plans, not ours.
When he had finished rebuilding us will we still love our family and friends? Of course. As a matter of fact we will love them better than we ever have. But they may not like us. We may set boundaries on people who to date have had none. We may speak out loud those truths that have been known for years, but gone unspoken. We may show real love, by challenging someone close to us to deal with a problem.
But remember the first step is letting Jesus into the deepest part of us, and allowing him to rip out the old heart, the old self. And this is never a painless or easy process. He will show us things about our self that we do not wish to see.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Too often all we want Jesus and to do is help us with the first part, help us to find a happy comfortable natural life— which in the end we will lose. Jesus challenges us to intentionally lose that natural life, and here and now let him give us a supernatural life.
Are we really ready to let Jesus in.