Placing God above ourselves in word and deed is a sign of our openness to His presence and action in our lives. When we receive God’s representatives, we welcome God Himself; when we place ourselves at their service, it is the Almighty that we serve. In fact, we cannot do without Him: a reminder to the contemporary world that has closed in on itself.

The First Reading (2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a) introduces us to Elisha and to an unnamed, wealthy woman who served him and, upon discerning his holy vocation, sheltered him. Elisha, who was himself the son of a wealthy landowner, had left hearth and home on being selected to succeed Elijah in the prophetic mission. He spent time with Elijah on Mount Carmel; later, he served as royal advisor and became known throughout the kingdom as a wonder worker – not least among the wonders being the blessing of a child to his long childless benefactress.

However, the focus is not on accomplishments but on total trust in God and commitment to His message. This is a point that Our Lord highlights in the Gospel (Mt 10: 37-42) when He says that those who love their kith and kin more than they love Him are not worthy of Him; those who love their life are bound to lose it whereas those who lose it for Jesus’ sake will find it. Whoever takes exception to the Lord’s words knows neither the ways of the world nor the ways of Our Lord: The world appears sweet but is deceitful, whereas Jesus, who comes across as harsh, is truthful.

Jesus is no politician currying favour with His people. He is incredibly frank, straightforward, even blunt – but never false. He does not promise us a bed of roses; on the contrary, He invites us to take up our crosses. He does not encourage us to seek service but to serve as He did, unto death. He does not point to a highway but to the narrow path to Heaven. Had we – not individuals alone but countries as a whole – wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy of the Gospel, the world would have been a better place to live in.

Pope Leo XIII in his memorable encyclical Immortale Dei (1885) [1] reminds us of how once upon a time the world had found favour with God: “There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favour of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is beyond all question, in large measure, through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion.

Contrast the Pope’s prophetic words with our condition today. The world is in a shambles, with atheism, materialism and individualism reigning supreme. No wonder, Russia has spread its errors across the world and is now attacking Ukraine for petty gains; France, formerly considered the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church, has been facing unrest; and in our country, the social and political scene is unbelievable – so enormous that our Shepherds finding themselves speechless have left the sheep to be devoured by the wolves. Against the particularly devastating scenario in Manipur, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore has been the lone voice crying in the wilderness – God bless him! Meanwhile, the encouraging words from the state’s new dispensation for the services traditionally rendered by the Christian community have provided human solace to the archbishop. Proof that the Lord keeps His promises and never abandons those who decidedly stand by Him.

Against this dismal background only the Gospel can give us hope, set us free. St Paul in the Second Reading (Rom 6: 3-4, 8-11) invites us to reflect on the fact that with baptism in Christ we die to sin and are on the path to our final glorification. Therefore, putting God above everything is a good idea. We could well say that only devponn (divinity) can protect our munisponn (humanity), only godliness can save our humaneness. That is Jesus’ radical call for discipleship. So, let us shed our natural approach to life and live supernaturally, putting God first in everything we do. Such a worldview may alienate those kith and kin accustomed to overrating the world; but it will surely keep us at peace with God. We ought to allow nothing to come between us and our God and Saviour, to whom we owe our very existence.