There are some very strong, radical words spoken by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel:
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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Lk. 14: 26-27)
For those who may like to sugarcoat the Gospel message, avoid the tough sayings of Jesus and sometimes paint Jesus as some type of pushover, think again. Jesus was often bold in word and deed. Did he not ridicule the Scribes and Pharisees as being hypocrites (Mt. 23: 13, 23, 25, 27, 29), blind guides (Mt. 23:16), a brood of vipers (Mt. 23: 33) or whitewashed tombs (Mt. 23:27)? Did He not refer to Peter as Satan (Mt. 16:23)? Did he not overturn the tables of the money-changers in the Jerusalem temple (Jn. 2: 13-16)? While, at other times, he could be most gentle and merciful in the Scriptures, he definitely could call people to task and raise great challenges.
How, then, are we to understand the above statement when placed up against other times in the Gospel where Jesus teaches us to love one another? (See Jn. 13:34, 15:12) Jesus could use types of hyperbole in his speech to jolt people. By this technique, He made a most definitive point: nothing can get in the way of our Christian discipleship. I suggest we should think and act in terms of making an absolute, radical commitment to Jesus. No, not even family members, or, most especially, our own particular wants and desires can get in the way. Absolutely nothing!
Is this a tough challenge? Most certainly it is! But do we really think that if we put the love of Jesus Christ first and foremost in our lives, that we will neglect and show no love for our family and others? On the contrary, loving Jesus completely, while imitating His self-sacrificing love, helps us to experience what true love is all about! Christian love will flow most naturally to those in our family and, as it is perfected, will extend mysteriously even to our enemies.
Self-sacrifice (carrying the cross) has become a foreign concept to many in our society who regularly seek self-gratification and personal gain. Jesus teaches us that it can never be all about me, myself and I. The universe does not revolve around what I have planned, no matter what I may think.
We are instructed to pray in the Our Father: Thy kingdom come, (the Kingdom of God), Thy will be done (God’s Will). Isn’t it abundantly clear? It’s not about me. It is about putting God first in our lives, above and beyond everyone and everything else. Our first love must be God. Love of family and neighbor should naturally flow from this.
I do not think Jesus would fare too well in this society where people are continually offended by what others say. The news media will often take a statement, sometimes obviously out of context, and run with it for days. Imagine the headlines: Jesus Encourages Hatred of Family Members.
Is that what He really meant?
Fr. Ed Namiotka