If you’d asked me at the time of their birth, I’d have been pleased to think that one day my children would become icons.
Who doesn’t imagine that his kid could become a rock star…or an MVP slugger…or a Nobel-prize-winning author?
With God’s grace and the passage of time, of course, most parents eventually dial down such expectations… and learn to recognize them for what they are: vicarious fantasies (if not neurotic projections) of our own faded dreams.
So it was startling to see a Facebook photo of one of our three offspring earlier this week, indicating that he had indeed become an icon. Literally. For Halloween, he dressed up as a holy card of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Pretty good likeness, don’t you think?
And in seeing the image, it struck me that this isn’t typically how I tend to look at those who are closest to me in life.
Sure, I desire ‘holiness’ for everyone in my family and my circle of friends. I want them to experience Christ, and the saving power of his grace.
But do I think of them as saints? Have I ever imagined that one day, their image (or for that matter, my image) could appear on a holy card?
If I’m honest, I don’t know how serious I’d be about encouraging that sort of career path for those who are dear to me—partly because I know the path is hard. Jesus makes that point in today’s Gospel: ‘Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple,’ he says.
Who’s going to sign up for something like that? Or persuade someone they love to do so?
Which may help to explain the exhortation we hear just a few verses earlier in the Gospel passage. Jesus says, ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’
Perhaps ‘hating’ in this context means something more like: ‘You may not want to listen to dear ol’ Dad…or your brother…or your friends…if they encourage you to choose something—or someone—other than Christ.’
Jesus knows that we must lose our lives in order to save them. You certainly won’t find this sort of wisdom printed on the back of a baseball trading card.
But maybe it’s worth asking ourselves, which icon is more likely to stand the test of time?