I was deeply honored when my brother and his wife asked me to be the godfather to their first child, a responsibility that I take seriously. I knew, however, that I had to be vigilant. You see, my brother’s wife, for all of her beauty and virtue, possesses a fatal flaw: she is a Chicago Cubs fan. As such, whenever I see a picture of my niece in Cubs attire, it is my unhappy duty to speak up to
my brother, “I’m concerned about the spiritual well-being of my goddaughter…”
In the Eternal View of things, our baseball allegiances don’t really carry much weight. But our allegiance to Jesus does. He is the one through whom we were made, and for whom our hearts are designed, and in whom we find mercy, truth and fulfillment. Sadly, however, due to the Fall and the disorder of our hearts, we often choose idols to replace God. The idols may be good in themselves! But if they take the place of God, they are misplaced and will only lead, in the end, to grief. Classically, the idols are often categorized as money, power, honor, pleasure, and… love.
Love? How can love ever be an idol? When we love lesser things more than greater things. For instance, I love steak! But if I put my love of steak above my love for a friend, it becomes an idol. I might put my love Cardinals baseball above my love for my family. I might even, as Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel, be tempted to put love for my family above love for God.
Sadly, this is all too common, often causing great grief. A family member might tug at us on vacation to sleep in on Sunday rather than go to Mass. He or she might say that if we don’t accept their decision to live in a way contrary to the Gospel that we don’t love them. Others simply, with winks and nudges or blunt statements, tell us that we’re foolish for believing there’s a God. I do not wish to diminish the difficulty of these situations, nor the pain felt in this tearing of the heart.
Who is a good companion in navigating this ‘valley of tears’? I would suggest St. Monica. She had a difficult marriage, and a difficult son. The son we know: he would eventually become the great St. Augustine! But not after a long and winding road that caused Monica grief and tears for many years… yet Monica, with great love for her son, never ceased to pray for her son, and lovingly admonish him when the opportunity presented itself. She also had a hard and difficult husband, not even Christian, who in the final year of his life experienced a complete change of character, received baptism, and died in the Faith. Both would point to St. Monica’s steadfast example, love, and words as pivotal in their eventual change of heart to Christ.
Let’s ask for the intercession of St. Monica, that we might be steadfastly faithful first to God; and that through us, He might bring the minds and hearts of our family to the same love of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ!
Gratefully in Christ,