Blog & Pastor Letters

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

07-02-2023Weekly ReflectionDeacon John Cantirino

Everywhere in the news today we hear and read about the rise of AI, artificial intelligence. It seems that the development and advancement of AI technology has made huge leaps in a short period of time. Artificial Intelligence, while offering several advantages to society, also has a downside to it. The fact is that AI can be so powerful that it can manipulate images, create realistic-looking people and events that are indistinguishable from reality, and generate academic papers with very little input from a human being.

In essence, we may have an increasingly difficult time in discerning what is real, what is true, what is authentic, and what really matters, from intentionally created deceptions. The world we live in will be ever more confusing because truth is becoming ever more obscured.

However murky or frustrating this all becomes, we can rest assured that there is authentic truth that we can count on to guide us in this life. This truth is the Word made flesh, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He could not speak more clearly, more truthfully, and more pointedly than what he tells us in today’s Gospel: that “whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” It may be a hard truth, a truth that will shake us up, a truth that demands a response from us.

So, who is the priority in your life? Who comes above all others? Who will you give your life over to? The answer should be Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean we stop loving our family and friends. It simply means we need to have the right order of love in our life. It was Saint Augustine who spoke of the right order, a right hierarchy of love. This order of love means we should love everything in creation according to its proper relationship to God. We are to love God above all things, then to love our neighbor and ourselves, and then to love the created world.

This is what our Lord is telling us clearly and forcefully: that love for Christ must come first. We are to love the Creator over any aspect of creation. If our love of Christ is not of prime importance, then our relationship with him is lacking. If love for others comes before love for Christ, we see those others as more important than God himself. Commitment to Christ must be complete, it must be total, it must be as real as possible. This commitment to the truth must be genuine, it must be 100% real, not a facsimile or an image of authenticity. On the surface our love for, and our relationship with, Christ may seem to be our priority, but deep down we need to honestly examine its authenticity. Appearances, as we’ve seen with AI technology, can be very deceiving. We can deceive ourselves; we can deceive others . . . but we can never deceive our Lord.

We may not always live out our love for Christ perfectly, but each day gives us the opportunity to more perfectly develop our relationship with Jesus Christ. Each day we can make a choice, a commitment that Christ will come first in our life. Each day allows us to live out what we often say about the importance of Christ in our life. Each day we can pray, however briefly, and strengthen our commitment to Jesus Christ. Each day presents opportunities to be active in loving our Lord over everything else, for the Eucharist and the sacrament of penance are always available to us.

But do we give them priority over everything else going on in our life? Do we find reasons, whether these be obligations or preferences or simply not putting the sacraments high on our “To Do” List, for not consistently receiving such important gifts that come from Christ Jesus. Perhaps what holds us back is a fear of what complete commitment involves . . . that of the cross. Can we embrace the cross in our life? It can be a frightening prospect, but we must have the courage to do so. The courage we need will grow the more we grow in our relationship with Christ. Putting love of Christ above all means trusting him above all. . . . And He is the only one we can fully trust, for He will never fail us.

The world we live in is fast becoming a very confusing place, a place that presents so many choices before us. . . . And many of those choices are not reliable; they are often half-truths and illusions. So, choose what is completely believable, that which is completely authentic and trustworthy. Choose to love Jesus Christ above all. Lose your life for His sake so that you may find the fullness of life, the life that lasts forever. . . . Eternal life.