The difficult sayings about discipleship continue in this, the second discourse of St. Matthew's Gospel. Though the reading from chapter ten seems unreasonably harsh, if we summarize the sentiments that Jesus expresses, we begin to see that it all comes down to one simple struggle; namely, the struggle of self versus the other.
First Jesus challenges our notions about family and its place in our priorities. While some might not see the notion of "self" included in an admonition regarding our loved ones, let us remember that begetting children is seen by many as a right rather than as a gift. Some societies even beget children in order to provide for their future care and solicitude. Agrarian societies, such as America before the industrial revolution, regarded a large family as a work force. In our own time, we have devoted huge amounts of money and research in order to provide for those who are not able to conceive. As our nuclear families have grown smaller because of monetary constraints, the pressure to produce grandchildren for our parents has become almost an obsession. Yet Jesus reminds us that following him means such concerns have to be subject to his claims upon us.
Then Jesus challenges our notions about happiness and well-being. He asks us to suffer with him, to carry our cross, whatever it may be, in such a way that we proclaim to the world that we are disciples of the Savior who sacrificed himself for our sake. Our "feel good" society fails to understand that life is not about "me"; rather it is about the other.
Finally, and the third saying really sums up the other two, Jesus reminds us that if we really wish to find ourselves, we will lose ourselves and our own notions of fulfillment. Rather we will place control over our lives in the hands of the Creator. We will live for him and for neighbor rather than for ourselves.
These three sayings are very counterintuitive and counter cultural. Many if not most would regard this type of attitude as foolish at best, insane even. Yet for those who have placed Jesus as the priority in their lives realize that the wisdom of these sayings is rooted in the life, ministry, passion, death and resurrection of the one whom we follow. As he gave himself for us, we now must give ourselves for him.