When Charles Borromeo was created a cardinal at the age of 21 who would have thought that he would become one of the foremost reformers in the history of the Church? This is an example of how the Holy Spirit can work even in unusual circumstances. Charles Borromeo was a prime mover during the Council of Trent and after his election as Archbishop of Milan he was one of the first bishops to open a seminary for the training of priests. His dedication to Church reform brought about much opposition and several attempts were made on his life. St. Charles has had a tremendous influence and impact on Catholic life for the past 400 years. He was canonised in 1610.
At first glance it would seem that the words of Our Lord in the gospel today are a contradiction to St. Paul’s statement in the first reading who says that “He who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the Law.” Our Lord talks about the necessity of turning ones back on parents, spouse, children, brothers and sisters. Once again Our Lord is using a typically Jewish way of making a point by means of exaggeration. And what he wants to emphasise is that nothing and no one can be allowed to stand in the way of our Christian duty which binds us to love God and one another.
Most of us can readily think of obstacles to our Christian duty. Such human weaknesses as selfishness and a wrong sense of values are definite obstacles. Putting our own will and our own agenda ahead of the needs of those with whom we live violates the commandment of love.
Other people can become obstacles too when their influence keeps us from our Christian duty. For example, a person can resent the amount of time a spouse spends in helping a neighbour. Parents can put pressure on their adult children to go into a financially rewarding profession when the children prefer to work at a job which pays less but helps people more.
The lesson is that love doesn’t mean backing down from principles. Rather, praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit we must devote ourselves to a life of generous and unselfish love, no matter what or who our obstacles may be.