This Gospel is hard. It leaves no wiggle room. We are to choose God first and to follow the light that God reveals to us. It is hardest when following the path of God imposes sacrifice on the people we love (many of those specifically named in the reading). Imagine if our following God gets in the way of the dreams our loved ones hold and work so hard for. Imagine not being able to provide for those dearest to us, sometimes disrupting harmony, or asserting independence to disagree.
Two stories with echoes of this Gospel have given me pause. In one, a husband told his wife he could not abandon his workers in a US city to outsource his clothing manufacturing business, even though bankruptcy was very much a possibility. Bankruptcy became the reality. The second story is of a wife and mother who responded to race riots by moving her family from their comfortable suburban home to the inner city. While much good was accomplished, the children later recounted the immense hardships they went through, and how they needed to find a way to forgive their mother for her choice.
While Jesus’ juxtaposition of choosing God over family members may be an excellent rhetorical device for emphasis, I finally realize it is not a true dichotomy. When we choose God, we choose to love as God loves. We do not love others less, we love them more. We likely will love differently. We may not offer the same goods and affirmation prized by secular measures, but we draw on another currency: grace from the divine treasury.
When we choose God, the whole family and community “marries in”—whether or not we or they know it.