Sometimes in reading the gospels we find passages that seem to contradict other passages.  An instance of that is the passage in Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus is quoted as saying:    “Do not suppose that my mission on earth is to spread peace.  My mission is to spread not peace but division.” (Mt. 10:34)  Yet we call Jesus the Prince of peace.  When Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection, he repeated on several occasions: “Peace be with you!”

The fourth commandment imposes the obligation to honor one’s father and mother.  But     Jesus also said: “I have come to set a man at odds with his father, a daughter with her mother.”

Clearly, we cannot always take gospel passages in their most obvious literal sense.  There    is always the need to interpret.  When we interpret we need to look at the context because sentences removed from their context can take on a very different meaning.  In interpreting we also need to look at the teaching of the Church and at the way faithful Christians generally understand a given text.

To put that a bit differently, we always need to ask ourselves, what is the gospel saying to me.  If we do that we see that what Jesus is actually saying is that we must love him above all else.  Love of others is not excluded but nothing and no one is to be loved in a way that is in conflict with love of him. This is clear from the words that immediately follow the passage cited above. “No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me.  No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me.”

That requires sacrifice, taking up a cross.  In that same passage Jesus repeats the fundamental challenge for anyone who truly wants to be his follower. “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.”

Concretely, taking up one’s cross means overcoming any selfishness, any self-seeking.  That, of course, is difficult.  As a result of original sin we are prone to do just the opposite.  We tend  to seek simply what pleases us with little or no concern for others or for the duties imposed on us by our state of life.

The journey through life as a follower of Jesus is a great challenge.  We can be confident, however, that Jesus is with us every step of the way on that journey, as long as we keep our minds and our hearts open to him.