When we love the divine Son of God, Jesus Christ, above all human persons, then we can love others appropriately and help each other follow Christ into heaven. That is the meaning of Christ’s teaching, “Whoever loves son or daughter [parents or anyone] more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Cf. Mt. 10:37-42
This is difficult to hear, since drawing clear boundaries for oneself and others is challenging, and yet, Jesus Christ calls us to trust him, take up our cross and follow him. One can imagine that the boundaries of this true love of God and others looks like a capital “V” for VICTORY, since its boundaries send us upward and outward.
Christ warns us of the many obstacles and temptations that we need to overcome. By carrying our cross we die to our sinfulness and love God above all things, so that we can love all people, especially our family members, appropriately by helping them on the path of the fullness of faith substantially found in the Catholic Church and her Seven Sacraments. These essential sacraments support our growth in the three divine virtues which we need to live out simultaneously in order to get to heaven.
Many people say they have faith, but there is the full-ness of Christian faith, which is the Catholic faith; there is partial faith, which can be found among the 30,000 differ-ent Protestant churches; and there is false faith. We want to have the fullness of faith – the Catholic faith – in all its splendor and purity, otherwise by neglect we may end up in purgatory for many years or miss out on God’s merciful love by not repenting of mortal sins and thus never enter heaven.
Some Protestant churches do not believe in purgatory, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, nor that the Sacrament of Marriage is indissoluble – which means, that it is a commitment to God and to one’s spouse for one’s entire life, until death do you part.
As Catholics, we respect the differences among other Christians, but we especially respect our Catholic faith. If someone were to ask you why Catholics cannot receive communion at a Protestant church, we can say that we want to respect each other and our differences, and that in good conscience formed by Christ, we Catholics are called by God to fulfill his Third Commandment by worshipping him in a Catholic Church. And, when in the state of grace, we then can receive Christ fully in the Holy Eucharist because we are in full communion with Christ and His Catholic Church.
Yet, we should find common ground with other Christians by praying with them the Lord’s prayer and doing charitable works with them. We do not rebaptize Christians who have been baptized in the “Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” when they want to enter our Catholic Church by following the fullness of the faith, because we recognize and respect their baptism.
We also recognize that all Christians should grow in love and faith, and one Catholic teaching is that we need to love
Jesus Christ first and foremost, even before our family members, of which we read about in today’s Gospel cited above, so that we can love them and all others appropriately.
One saintly person who lived this faith was St. Elizabeth Ann (Bayley) Seton. She was born in 1774 in New York, in a strong Anglican home. Her father was a distinguished physician, and she helped care for the needy. She married William Seton, another Anglican, who had sailing ships that went to Europe, including Italy where he had many Catholic friends who supported him financially.
William was advised to go to Italy for health reasons, but unfortunately, he died in Italy. His devout Catholic friends took great care of Elizabeth and her children, and that is where Elizabeth experienced the Holy Mass and other Catholic devotions. When she arrived back in New York she entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in 1805 and delighted in receiving Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.
Unfortunately, she was shunned by some of her family and friends. She appreciated her Anglican background, but she wanted to have the fullness of the Christian life. She witnessed to Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church and started a Catholic school at a parish for poor girls. Other women joined her and after several years they dedicated themselves as mystical brides of Christ and founded a religious community. They made vows to God of chastity, poverty and obedience under the guidance and authority of Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore.
That was the first Catholic sisterhood founded in the United States, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. This bud-ding religious community moved their Mother House and school to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where a shrine exists to-day since Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native born American to become a canonized Saint in 1975.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton died in 1821 by which time her religious community had 20 communities and many schools throughout our country which is considered the beginning of the Catholic parochial school system in America. The order was renamed Sisters of Charity and founded Seton Hall University in New Jersey in 1856.
Mother Seton was not afraid to take up her cross and follow Christ, despite the pain of being shunned by family and friends after becoming Catholic. She loved Jesus Christ above all others as the Divine Leader of the Catholic Church. Because of her witness to this truth, she helped many people convert and follow Jesus Christ who is the full-ness of divine life, love and wisdom.
Her feast day is January 4. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us. Help us to love Jesus Christ above all people and things, that we might help others on the way to salvation.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe