Matthew 10:37-42 | Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Defining the Yes
I read something the other day: Every time we say yes to something, we say no to everything else. But when we say no to something, we leave open all other possibilities. (jamesclear.com) Yes is a powerful word, and we have to handle power with care. We have to be sure we’re willing to pay the price of a yes.
When we accept a job, we effectively say no to other jobs that come our way. When we decide on a locale for a trip, we say no to other destinations. When we say yes to marriage, we say no to other romantic relationships. When we say yes to God, we say no to idolatry of any kind.
I think this is the concept Jesus was getting at in this gospel passage. Earlier in this gospel, Jesus says, “Let your yes mean yes” (Matthew 5:37). It’s simple, but not easy. But living a life filled with regret, wishing we’d gone down another path, isn’t a full life, and so Jesus wants us to be fully in the picture before we commit, to Him, to another person, to a cause. Once we’re committed, once we’ve said our “yes,” undoing that commitment is not supposed to be easy.
But there’s a paradox to the yes. While we have to do our research before we fully commit to anything, we also can’t fully know anything until we’re fully committed. We can see the potential red flags before—like having to turn down a knife-edge relationship in a dry season of marriage—but we can’t see the fullness that comes when we stay true to our spouse and work it through to the other side. The middle is painful but in the pain, there is truth and freedom that can’t be found any other way: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (vs. 39). When we lose all the nos our yes commits us to, we can find a depth to freedom we didn’t know existed.
Jesus doesn’t want to make us miserable. God is love, and the core of love isn’t strife. But at its core, love also isn’t easy, and it’s not meant to be. Easy doesn’t taste as sweet. In choosing Him, we know we will have to choose Him over and over. Possibly over our families, over our friends, over our way of life. The process of repeated choosing forces us to find our values, that which we will give our life for. Standing up for those values, no matter who or what the opposition; that choosing is the key to Jesus’s freedom.
He did it on the cross. That yes, though a no to the earthly desires of His mother, His disciples, His pride, His life, was power personified. That yes to a brutal and ignominious death opened the door to true freedom for all of us. We only have to accept it with His full disclosure of all the inherent difficulties that lie within it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.