The Fathers of the Church on Loving Jesus more than relatives, and Carrying our Cross and Following Him

December 12, 2021 • 6 min

From The Catena Aurea, page 397
By St. Thomas Aquinas and the Fathers of the Church

  1. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

  2. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

  3. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Jerome; Because of what He had said, I am not come to send peace but a sword, &c. that none might suppose that family affection was banished from His religion, He now adds, He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.

So in the Song of Songs we read, Order love in me. For this order is needed in every affection; after God love thy father, thy mother, and thy children; but if a necessity should occur that the love of parents and children comes into competition with the love of God, and where both cannot be preserved, remember that hatred of our kindred becomes then love to God. He forbids not to love parent or child, but adds emphatically, more than me.

Hilary; For they who have esteemed domestic affection of relations higher than God, are unworthy to inherit good things to come.

Chrys. Yet when Paul bids us obey our parents in all things, we are not to marvel; for we are only to obey in such things as are not hurtful to our piety to God. It is holy to render them every other honour, but when they demand more than is due, we ought not to yield.

This is likewise agreeable to the Old Testament; in it the Lord commands that all who worshipped idols, should not only be held in abhorrence, but should be stoned. And in Deuteronomy it is said, He who saith to his father and his mother, I know you not; and to his brethren, Ye are strangers; he hath kept thy saying.

Gloss. It seems to happen in many cases that the parents love the children more than the children love the parents; therefore having taught that His love is to be preferred to the love of parents, as in an ascending scale, He next teaches that it is to be preferred to the love of children, saying, And whoso loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Raban. He is unworthy of the divine communion who prefers the carnal affection of kindred to the spiritual love of God.

Chrys. Then that those to whom the love of God is preferred should not be offended thereat, He leads them to a higher doctrine. Nothing is nearer to a man than his soul, and yet He enjoins that this should not only be hated, but that a man should be ready to deliver it up to death, and blood; not to death only, but to a violent and most disgraceful death, namely, the death of the cross; therefore it follows, And whoso taketh not up his cross and followeth me, is not worthy of me. He had as yet said nothing to them respecting his own sufferings, but instructs them in the meanwhile in these things, that they may the more readily receive His words concerning His passion.

Hilary; Or; They that are Christ’s have crucified the body with its vices and lusts. [Gal. 5, 24.] And he is unworthy of Christ who does not take up His cross, in which we suffer with Him, die with Him, are buried and rise again with Him, and follow his Lord, purposing to live in newness of spirit in this sacrament of the faith.

Greg. The cross is so called from torment [cruciatus]; and there are two ways in which we bear the Lord’s cross; either when we afflict the flesh by abstinence; or when in compassion for our neighbour we make his afflictions our own.

But it should be known that there are some who make a shew of abstinence not for God, but for ostentation; and some there are who shew compassion to their neighbour, not spiritually but carnally, not that they may encourage him in virtue, but rather countenancing him in faults.

These indeed seem to bear their cross, but do not follow the Lord; therefore He adds, And followeth me

Chrys. Because these commands seemed burdensome, He proceeds to shew their great use and benefit, saying, He that findeth his life shall lose it. As much as to say, Not only do these things that I have inculcated do no harm, but they are of great advantage to a man; and the contrary thereof shall do him great hurt—and this is His manner every where. He uses those things which men’s affections are set upon as a means of bringing them to their duty. Thus: Why are you loath to contemn your life? Because you love it? For that very reason contemn it, and you will do it the highest service.

Remig. The life in this place is not to be understood as the substance, (the soul,) but as this present state of being; and the sense is, He who findeth his life, i. e. this present life, he who so loves this light, its joys and pleasures, as to desire that he may always find them; he shall lose that which he wishes always to keep, and prepare his soul for eternal damnation.

Raban. Otherwise; He who seeks an immortal life, does not hesitate to lose his life, that is, to offer it to death. But either sense suits equally well with that which follows, And whoso shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Remig. That is, he who in confession of My name in time of persecution despises this temporal world, its joys, and pleasures, shall find eternal salvation for his soul.

Hilary; Thus the gain of life brings death, the loss of life brings salvation; for by the sacrifice of this short life we gain the reward of immortality.

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