Last week I lost a dear friend from my first parish as a priest, St. Frances of Rome in Cicero. As his name, Patrick, would imply, he was deeply rooted in his Irish heritage and made countless trips to Ireland. At the wake, his five children were sharing memories about their dad and it struck me how they made the point in no uncertain terms, that their father put Jesus first: from his relationship with Christ, flowed everything, including his marriage, children, family, and vocation as a teacher.
It is common, and deeply human, to hear loved ones saying how the person they are grieving put them first, and loved them more than anything in the world. And I have no doubt that they would also say and believe that God comes first. But to hear my friend’s children say that for their father, God was everything and came first, moved me. Their words reminded me how Patrick treasured his Catholic faith. Raising five children with his wife and teaching for decades in Chicago public schools meant he was very busy. But never too busy to spend much time, each and every day, in prayer.
Jesus says clearly and pointedly that whoever loves father, mother, child more than Him is not worthy to be called a disciple. Jesus was simply reminding us that we must live our lives from the center of our hearts where God dwells, the very Being who created us in love. Living from this divine center frees us to keep everything in perspective... it frees us to be detached from people and things. Each of us needs to try and carve out time everyday for personal prayer. In Our prayer we encounter the living God who grounds us in a relationship that will be our ultimate security and refuge.
When we are even detached from the people we love the most, they remain alive and present within that center of our hearts. From God flows these beautiful people who helped to make us who we are. Treasured relationships always remain alive and well, especially after a loved one pases from this life into their fulfilled life... when we don’t “cling” to them for security, but hold them dearly in the open palm of our hand. The loved one remains alive within us. This is nothing other than “Resurrection living.”