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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - The Fair-Weather Fans of Jesus

Robert Barron - The Fair-Weather Fans of Jesus

Robert Barron - The Fair-Weather Fans of Jesus

Peace be with you. Friends, these past several weeks, we've been reading from a section of the Gospel of Luke that is actually rather harrowing. What I mean is we find laid out before us the great principles and challenges of the spiritual life, what it means to follow Jesus. There are a lot of people today who might be intrigued by Jesus. They find him interesting. Maybe they remember him as a spiritual teacher. He's like a guru. They've got kind of warm feelings about him. Well, can I suggest to you that their ancestors are referenced at the very beginning of the Gospel for today?

Listen: "Great crowds were traveling with Jesus". Yeah, great crowds because he was attractive, he was saying interesting things, he was healing the sick, he was providing what people wanted. He was being treated a bit like a pop star: "Who's this fascinating charismatic figure"? And so great crowds were following him. And so he turns to them and he addresses them. But listen to what he says, because he gives them, if you want, on purpose a sort of slap in the face, as if to say, "Following me is not a matter of following a pop star. It's not a walk in the park. Following me is something of supreme spiritual and moral importance". Listen to what he says now to the crowd following him: "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple".

So imagine that scene. All these disciples, following the charismatic teacher, and they're all full of enthusiasm. He turns. "Yes, tell us something sweet, something wonderful and uplifting". And that's what he tells them. "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters". What? What? It's a somewhat different version of, "Unless you love me more than your mother and father, more than your brothers and sisters, you're not worthy of me". First of all, everybody, please see this. This is an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus. Look, you can't imagine another moral or spiritual teacher saying something comparable. They might say, "Unless you love my teaching, or unless you love the God to whom I point. Unless you love the spiritual path that I point out to you more than mother and father, etc". But to say, blithely, "Unless you love me, personally, more than the most lovable things in the world, unless you hate mother and father, brother and sister, you're not worthy to be my disciple".

Well, it begs the ontological question: "Who do you think you are"? Who could say such a thing except the one who is, in person, the supreme good? This is as high a Christology, I'm using that technical language, as high a Christology as anything in the prologue to the Gospel of John. "In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God". Okay, that's real clear. This is clear too, once we sort of break the code. The only one who could or should be loved in this way is the one who's the supreme good. Okay. Therefore, and the Gospels again are over and over again clear on this point, therefore, in regard to him, a choice has to be made.

If he's a spiritual teacher, there are a thousand spiritual teachers. I could name them up and down the centuries; I could go to the local bookstore here and find all kinds of books by spiritual teachers. But none of them, none of them, makes this sort of demand on me. Why? Because none of them is claiming what Jesus is claiming here. That's why, "You're either with me or you're against me. Either you gather with me or you scatter". There's an either/or when it comes to Jesus. See, he's saying to his maybe fair-weather fans here, those who are following him because he's fascinating and charismatic, "Do you realize what following me involves? I'm not just one more prophet. I'm God from God and light from light and true God from true God. Therefore, I must be the absolute center of your life. There can be no compromise. There can be no half measures. You're either with me or you're against me".

Jesus calls forth from us a choice the way no other figure, no other philosopher, no other spiritual teacher does. And he makes this point with typical Semitic exaggeration, but the point remains: "Unless you hate your mother and father, brothers and sisters". What could this mean? Well, let me suggest something to you. In the measure that mother or father, brothers or sisters, have become in your life the supreme good, that's a nightmare. That's a problem. That's a huge stumbling block. Now, mother and father, brothers and sisters, lovable? Yeah, sure, sure. Of course. But in the measure that they have become the central love and preoccupation of your life, that's a nightmare. And in that measure, they should be hated. If they're playing that role in your life, you have to break with them. What did St. Augustine say? "Love God, and then love everything else for the sake of God".

Now we're cooking. Now we're on the right track. Jesus has said more or less here, "I am divine. I am God. I am the center". Therefore, you must love him above all, and everything else, including the people you love the most, for his sake. Let me give you a concrete example here, and you find it a lot in the lives of the saints, but the saints have to make a break at some point with, yes, their mother and father, yes, with their own families. Think of Francis of Assisi, when he's called by Christ to live this life of radical poverty and he's living like a vagabond and he's embarrassing to his father. His father was a respected businessman in the town of Assisi.

Here's Francis giving away all his father's clothes, and so the father challenges him. And in fact, they bring him, as a kind of trial, before the local bishop. What does Francis do but take off all his clothes and, standing naked in the public square, he gives the clothes back to his father and said, "I give this all back to you, because I'm following my Father in heaven". "Unless you hate your mother and father". You see, not that I'm saying psychologically Francis hated his father and mother, but he was signaling, "You are not the absolute center of my life. Christ is". Another example from an Italian saint, my hero, St.Thomas Aquinas. You know the story that Thomas as a young man decides he wants to become a Dominican friar.

Well, Dominicans now are a pretty respectable bunch, but in those days, the early days, they were seen as vagabonds, they were this new mendicant order, just a fancy way of saying a begging order, living on the streets, preaching and begging. Well, Thomas, yes, he was in a Benedictine monastery for a time because his aristocratic parents thought, "He'll become the Abbot of Monte Cassino. He'll become a great figure". They didn't ever envision he'd become a begging friar in the streets.

And so Thomas joins the Dominicans, his family gets wind of it, and so his mother in high dudgeon sends a group of her other sons who were mercenaries and they stop Aquinas, and they try to pull the Dominican habit off his back. And they say Thomas just clung to it tenaciously. And they brought him to a family castle, held him prisoner for a year, hoping to dissuade him from his vocation. Thomas didn't give in. So they finally gave in; they let him go. "Unless you hate your mother and father, your brothers and sisters, you're not worthy of being my disciple". Again, I don't mean Thomas Aquinas psychologically hated his mother and father, but he did say, "You are not the absolute good in my life. There's a higher good, the Christ who calls me".

Now, let me just press this thing, everybody, because Jesus presses it with the crowds who are following him. "Unless you hate your mother and father, brothers and sisters, even your own life, you're not worthy to be my disciple". Think about that for a second. Let that sink in, everybody. Look, I've been at this game for a long time. I've known these texts since I was a kid; I've been preaching and teaching them. This text still takes my breath away. Because you say, "Look, my own life. Isn't that what it's finally all about? I mean, everything I ever experienced, well, it's predicated on the fact that I'm alive. It's my life. I can't hate my own life. Can I"? "Unless you hate your own life".

See, this is the "metanoia", we say "conversion", but it means going beyond the mind you have, "meta nous," going beyond your ordinary way of seeing. See, for all of us, really, all of us sinners, my life is the central preoccupation. I'm just trying to make myself as happy as I can be, right? But the Lord says, "Unless you hate your own life". My life isn't about me. My life doesn't belong to me. It's not as though everything revolves around my life and my needs and my preoccupations. But now here's the metanoia, here's the conversion, here's the turning around. Here's the radicalization of your life. You now revolve around Christ. Everything that you are, your mind and your will and your heart and your passions and your body and your projects and your plans, they all now begin to revolve around him. That's what it means to hate your own life.

Now, can we take one more step? I always imagine if there's anybody still listening to him, so here they are all following him, and he gives them this sermon. I mean, I imagine that a lot of this crowd has drifted away. But how about the last thing he says to them? "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple". Now, we, after centuries of hearing this and having spiritualized it, we always say sure, carry your cross means you accept a burden of suffering, etc. No, no, but go back to the first century to these people. They saw this. They saw people being crucified, carrying the cross beam to the place of their own execution, where they'd be strapped or nailed to this cross and left to die in utter humiliation, utter rejection.

I mean, they knew to take up your cross meant something horrific. And the Lord says, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and comeafter me cannot be my disciple". In other words, to put radically to death me and mine and I and my projects and my plans and what pleases me. No, no. "Unless you hate mother and father, brother and sister, and yes, even your own life, you cannot be my disciple". It's all about Christ. He comes first. He comes last. He's the Alpha, the Omega. He's the planet around which my whole life must revolve. Maybe, everybody, let's put ourselves in the crowd that was following Jesus. A lot of us who are kind of fair-weather fans or sunshine patriots, we're with the Lord as long as it's no threat to us, and then hear these words. See what happens. And God bless you.
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