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Twenty-third Sunday – Ordinary Time Cycle C

4 September 2010

Reflecting on Luke 14:25-33

Okay, did Jesus really say we have to hate everybody we love in order to be his disciple?  Isn’t that completely out of character with everything we know about him?

Paul writing to Philemon about his slave Onesimus

First, the better translation for “hate” is “to love less than”.  Am I willing to love my own life less than I love being wrapped in the mystery and grace and healing love of Jesus?  Oh yeah.  Because it’s a win-win.  When I yield to the stronger-than-death love of Christ I find my life all over again, hidden and made richer through my day-by-day encounter with his Spirit.  How could I ever love my life if it were apart from him?

But look out.  A life in Christ means the status quo is out the window.  For example, the tribal codes of honor and shame that kept sons and daughters in perpetual debt to their parents were dismantled by Jesus’ invitation to follow him instead.  In that fascinating second reading today Paul reminded the Christian slaveholder Philemon that his slave Onesimus had been baptized, and was now his brother in Christ.  Wow!

So, loving Jesus more than we love slavery, family ties that welcome no stranger, religious restrictions that keep us forever bound up in guilt and unworthiness?  You bet.   That’s the liberating message of this difficult Gospel today. The disciple of Jesus hates everything that keeps a grudge going, a door closed, and a social status in place that, when the ship is going down, keeps some down in steerage while the rest of us get the lifeboats.

So I get it now.  That message is completely in character with everything we know about Jesus.

Sharing God’s Word at Home

Is there something you need to “love less than” in order to have a deeper faith life?

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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Ordinary Time - Cycle C

15 Comments to “Twenty-third Sunday – Ordinary Time Cycle C”

  1. Thanks Kathy, for such a meaningful commentary on this Gospel. I have always been uncomfortable with Jesus’ comment about hate. That is such a violent word, even by itself. I recently spent a retreat day reflecting on the Good Samaritan Gospel and came to the conclusion that hating our sisters and brothers would be hating Jesus too, since Jesus lives in each person. So, I know Jesus doesn’t want us to hate anybody. Jesus said a lot of things that need reflection and discernment. Peace! Sue

  2. I like your explanation of “hate” as “love less than,” but I think keeping priorities might be easier to understand. Making as a priority love for Jesus and doing God’s will doesn’t result in loving others less, it makes us love them more in the Trinity, because we first loved Jesus. When Jesus is the priority, we cannot fail to fulfill the two great commandments he left us.

  3. I by the fact that your invitation at the end of the column, “Let’s get talking, Church” used a capital “C”. Over the past few years my own struggle has been that living the Gospels hasn’t always been congruent with that image. It is more often in the small “c” church where I find the inclusive and accepting love of Christ, among the people. In order to live in that reality, I sometimes find it’s necessary for me to love the Church “less than” Jesus. Brebis, it is just those two great commandments that urge me on, and it seems that if we are striving to fulfill THEM the first ten become second nature, (as much as that’s humanly possible).

  4. correct the first sentence to start out “I was struck” – it apparently got lost in the submission!

  5. I have a question for this discussion group. This morning, Father said that his parents were angry when he decided to enter the seminary. They were previously not Church-goers. He said, “Jesus caused them great pain from my decision.” He also related that his parents have come back to Church and are very active.

    I have a problem with anyone who ascribes causality of pain or bad events to God. In the struggles of my life, I have come to believe that God is with us through pain that comes from life, and that God gives us grace to handle the problems of life, but I’ve never believed in a God who causes pain for us.

    Is God-given pain bad theology?

  6. I missed Father’s homily today, but having had similar conversations with him about this sort of thing, I don’t think he meant to imply God causes us pain. His words may have been poorly placed or something, but my take on it would be that maybe his parents felt Jesus had caused them pain. I do know that when someone says “It was God’s will” in time of pain and loss, Fr. Pat has always said that God does not will children to die or other painful events to happen. I can’t speak for him, but just what I know about him makes me certain that his theology doesn’t include God-given pain. Maybe it would be helpful to Email him and ask him to clarify for you. I agree with your theology that God is with us through the pain that life brings.

  7. However, this event wasn’t meant to be a painful one…It was joyous and grace-filled and Ft. Pat became God’s instrument to move his parents back to Him. So, I’m not sure that it fits into the same category as the pain that comes from living. If his parents had chosen not to hear God’s call, or to just love Fr. Pat and accept his choice, and chose to feel pain over Fr. Pat’s vocation, then to me it seems that would have been the result of their choice, not God’s. Does that make sense?

  8. Oh boy, this is funny. I need to jump in here for a second. Lots of the readers of this site are hearing great preaching on Sundays from Fr. Pat at MPB, and that preaching often finds its way onto the site via parishioners.

    But “brebis galeus” is not an MPB parishioner, and the Father she was referencing is her own pastor, not Fr. Pat! I think Fr. Pat would think it’s hilarious that this conversation took place about him, based on a homily given by a completely different priest.

    So, delete the previous two comments and have a laugh. But a good question has been asked and probably should be talked about here: is God-given pain bad theology???

  9. Kathy,

    Thanks for clarifying that. I’ve actually heard this type of statement from many priests over the years. “God will do anything to get your attention.” Some of them followed up with examples, “take your health,” “take your children,” etc. I’ve always rejected this theology and thought, “Why would I want to believe in a God who works that way?”

    Likewise, people who believe that piety is a facial (usually sad sack) expression have it wrong in my view. We won’t be attracting many converts to the faith, if we look so miserable and believe that God is waiting to zap us.

    When my little sister died, my parents told us that the “angels came and took her away.” For two toddlers, ages 2 and 3, this was scary, and my older brother and I tiptoed around corners checking for angels before we would proceed. Then, when my first son died at the age of four months, people told me it was God’s will.

    It took me years to sort out a theology that doesn’t include a pain-giving God who wills babies to die and angels who take babies away.

  10. Thanks Kathy! I tried to delete the comments, but don’t seem to be smart enough to do so. Anyway, to the question; well meaning friends, families, etc. often use that phrase “It was God’s will” to offer some comfort, and I’m not sure they realize the implications it may have for our perspective on God. I’m really sorry for your loss, brebis galeus. That must have been a terrible time in your life, and to think that God had willed it would stretch ones abililty to accept that God is the loving God we believe in.

  11. Thanks, Brevis for sharing that story about angels taking kids back to God – – this helps me in my catechetical work to assist catechist with pious images that may be acceptable to adults but inappropriate for children.

    I think that the problem of evil, usually reduced by theologians to God’s permissive will (as opposed to God’s proactive will)is utterly inadequate when placed in the context of an all merciful, all loving God. For if he is indeed all loving, why permit such an occurence? [Mr Spock would agree at this point with his iron clad syllogism.]

    So where does this take us. Some traces of answers I found from other people involved basically throwing oneself in the lap of God and getting lost in that mystery while God gently caress them. – – – Cris

  12. A friend once told me “If God takes you to it, he will take you THROUGH it.” To me, that is a visual explanation of faith. Even though I falter, I know that God is there with me, and that my suffering (perceived or real) is part of His great plan. And so he is walking the road with us, to get us through the fire, or the parted sea, or whatever else we are enduring, and ending up with an understanding either in this life or the next. Another friend reminds me that our home on earth is only a temporary dwelling place. And by following Jesus even if we have to turn from our family, friends on possessions on earth, we will end up in a much better place for eternity!

  13. This is a clear, gentle explanation of one of the toughest scriptural lessons we ever hear or read. I’m always glad that I haven’t taken a non-believer to mass on the day the reading is used! But if you were there to explain it…


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  15. Kathy, I am so glad that you helped clarify that “hate stuff.” I think that people could go wild with a misunderstanding of what hate means. And it seems to be happening all the time as an excuse for exclusivity. It’s easy to say I love Jesus but hate those people who live down the block, who are different because of gender, age, social status, race, sexual orientation, religion. It’s easy to say the gospel tells me I’m supposed to hate, so why should I reconcile, forgive or ask forgiveness? Whoa… What a gross misinterpretation that would be, a self-centered manipulation of God’s word to keep us from seeing others with their God-given dignity! How then could we say that we love God when we know that Jesus was about embracing not excluding people, no matter who they were?
    The question about loving less so that I can grow in faith really hits home. I need to love less selfishly and more selflessly. If I reached out to Jesus more, I would be letting go of the things that I grasp so tightly, be they ideas, things, or people. And then, when it comes to looking at others as if they were unlovable, these are the ones I have to love more, because this is what God is doing. Perhaps what I have to do most of all is love with the heart of Jesus. Prayer leads me to say: “Help me love You, choose You and give myself to You. Be with me as I embrace those who need to know that they are loved.”

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