Decision to follow Jesus can shatter family allegiances

By Glen Argan

Many who join the Catholic Church or who commit their lives as priests or consecrated persons face stiff resistance from their families. This resistance comes not because the person called to a deep faith has developed a private devotion to Jesus or to one of the saints. Rather, it is when they step beyond the private realm and devote themselves to Jesus’ Church that they become black sheep.

You can have your private life of faith and devotion. While friends and family might think you are a little quirky, other people have oddball hobbies too. In today’s thinking, each is entitled to their own private sphere, and no one should cast negative judgments on what they do with their lives.

It is when you go public and join the Church that your dear ones will reject you. Why? Because they sense that you have joined a family which usurps your birth family. No longer are your parents and siblings the ones to whom you hold unfailing allegiance. It is said that blood is thicker than water, but for the person of faith, the water of Baptism is thicker than the ties to blood relations.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus asks, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in a household will be divided, three against two and two against three.” The Church is a family, a family with its own structure and with an allegiance to Christ that outstrips all earthly ties.

In societies where families had Church ties which lasted for generations, harmony was the norm. But perhaps faith was most often taken for granted rather than attained through personal struggle. In Canada today, the Church ties of most families are weak or non-existent. When a child or a spouse chooses to follow Jesus through the Church, the applecart is upset. Parents may feel their child, whether a youth or an adult, is lost to the family.

They are not wrong in this. This shift in a person’s allegiances is one reason why their decision to join the Church is a wrenching one, a decision made with fear and trembling. They wonder, “What will my friends and family think?” But a person who is faithful to the call knows which is the higher path, which voice is calling them to the true, the good and the beautiful – to the best that they can be.

Jesus knew that in a pagan culture, joining the Body of Christ was a courageous decision. Today, the Western world is again pagan where false gods of wealth, prestige, domination and personal autonomy are the ones which are worshipped.

But you: where do you stand? Do you feel God stirring within your heart, calling you to worship him with his family? If so, how can you say “no”?

Sunday readings for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 18, 2019
Jeremiah 38.4-6, 8-10 | Psalm 40 | Hebrews 12.1-4 | Luke 12.49-53

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