Today we honour the memory of one of the early Dominicans, Blessed Ceslaus. He was ordained a priest before he joined the Order and it was Saint Dominic himself who received him and Saint Hyacinth, who may have been his brother. Ceslaus was sent, with a group of friars, to preach and teach in Eastern Europe. He was instrumental in setting up the Dominican Province of Poland, and particularly the Priory at Breslau where he died on 15th July 1242. He was beatified by Pope Clement XI in 1713. We can learn so much from our brethren who have gone before us, and it makes us realise that we too will influence those who follow us. Hopefully, in a hundred years’ time, our spiritual descendants will speak kindly of us as we do of our brother Blessed Ceslaus today.
For most people family relationships are probably the most important and most influential relationships they have. In Israel 2000 years ago this was more frequently the case than it is today. Our Lord’s words in today’s gospel have an especially sharp edge, since they seem to talk about severing family ties for the sake of the Gospel. Did Our Lord really mean for his disciples to do this?
Of course not: and this is a prime example of why we mustn’t always take Scripture literally, but must know something of the background of Jewish life 2000 years ago. Our Lord is using classical Jewish hyperbole—that is, an extravagant exaggeration—to make a point: and the point Our Lord is making is that our relationship with him needs to become the most important relationship in our lives. Now obviously, Our Lord isn’t saying that we should stop loving our family members—or anyone else for that matter. He is simply challenging our priorities and asking us to place him first and foremost in our hearts.
Most people are concerned about what their family members think of them, and that is good. But it sometimes happens that we let these family concerns override or even crowd out our relationship with God. Such family concerns can dominate us so much that, for all practical purposes, we set God aside and try to please our family more than we seek to please God. When this happens, we risk looking to the wrong source for our fulfilment and happiness.
For those of us who are Religious and have, to a certain extent, followed Our Lord’s teaching in the Gospel, we take consolation in knowing that Our Lord will ultimately make all things turn out for the best for those who seek him first and strive to follow him better each day.