This phrase is a great consolation to us. It speaks of the fact that the Lord Jesus not only draws us into a deeper relationship with Him, but that He then brings about, for us, a deeper relationship with His Father as well. This is the great mystery that our recent celebration of Trinity Sunday called to mind: we are invited to share in the very life of the Trinity, having a deep and personal relationship, not simply with a “generic” God, but a personal relationship with each of the three Divine Persons! This always begins with the Lord Jesus, Who leads us to His Father and fills us with His Holy Spirit. That is one of the reasons why we are described as Christocentric—everything begins with the Lord Jesus.
In the Gospel the Lord Jesus points out that no relationship in our life should be more important to us than our relationship with Him. He makes that point in a particularly strident way when He contrasts loving Him with loving our parents, thus showing that even our most basic and important relationships have to take a back seat to our relationship with the King of Kings! It is easy for us to agree to this in theory, but what about putting it into practice? If we consider those in our lives that we freely spend our time with, how does the amount of time we spend with them compare with the time we spend with the Lord Jesus? It is good to reflect on this, because, regardless of what our theoretical ideals are, where we live from a practical point of view says more about our actual ideals than what we hold in theory. Because of this, looking at how we spend our time, especially in terms of the time we spend with the Lord Jesus can give us an indication of just how important (or unimportant) our relationship with the Lord Jesus is. So if we say He is first in our lives but in point of fact He is last in terms of what we spend time doing, it would be good to re-think our priorities. If we only succeed in “finding our lives,” we run the risk of losing them, as He points out. What does this mean? If we put ourselves first, and only consider things from the point of view of our wants, our desires, our plans, etc., then we are just living for ourselves. However, if we place Him first, and do what we can to determine His will for our lives, never leaving the Lord Jesus “out of the equation,” then He promises us that we will in fact find our lives, because we will be doing what we were created to do: love Him and be loved by Him, serving Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength!
The first reading speaks of the reward that can come from serving the Lord—Elisha the great prophet of God ministers to the needs of the family that reaches out and cares for him. The Lord Jesus makes the same point about someone who does something as simple as give a cup of cold water to one of His Disciples, that “he will surely not lose his reward.” Of course, our starting point should not be, “What’s in it for me?” Our starting point should be acts of gratitude for what the King of Kings and Lord of Lords has already done in our lives! As we surrender more and more to Him, we experience more and more of His presence—His love, His guidance, the gentle presence of His Holy Spirit, etc. He calls all of us to serve, each one in a way proper to our relationship with Him. It can be as profound as a life spent in contemplative prayer, or as simple as inviting someone to take Alpha! What is important, as St. Teresa of Calcutta points out, echoing the great Carmelite Doctors, is not the magnitude of the work so much as the love with which it is done. We can all love, and we can continue to plead with Him for an ever-greater ability to love. In this is the Kingdom most surely built: as we grow in love with the Triune God, we are filled with a love that reaches to our neighbors, as the Lord intends!—Fr. Ed