Jesus tells us that the only way to gain life is by losing it; but this is only possible if Jesus is the first and greatest love of life.
He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; He who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me: Jesus demands that love for parents and children cannot be above love for Him. Does Jesus want to disintegrate the family? Surely not. He himself insists on this by the fourth commandment (Mark 1:8-13; 10:17-19) and was an example of obedience to his parents (Luke 2:51). It is not about two contradictory statements, but it asks that love for Him be above the narrow limits of the small family.
He who does not take up his cross and follow me behind is not worthy of me: At the time this Gospel was written, Christians not only knew the cross of Jesus but of many martyrs. The cross is part of the following of Jesus. Taking up the cross and carrying it after Jesus was the same as accepting to be marginalized from the unjust system. We live in a world that asks “And what for me?” In this world we are tempted to think more about the reward than what we can give.
We live in a world where the focus is on what we can achieve and not what we can give. Many young people go to college not to be productive citizens, but to seek money and have fun in the future. Jesus says this selfish behavior will ruin life. You have to be willing to lose your life, you can have it. Paul, to be faithful to Jesus, had to lose everything he had, a career, the esteem of the people, prestige. The same thing happened with the first Christians. Paul says: “I am crucified with Christ.” “I want to experience his cross and his death, so that I can also experience his resurrection.” “I am crucified to the world and the world to myself.” This is the paradox of the Gospel different from the logic of the world: The last is the first, who loses wins, who gives everything, preserves everything, who dies, lives. Who gains the life loses it.