23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C (Lk 14:25-33)

Hate” is such a harsh word, devoid of any sentiment or tender feelings. It is the antithesis of “Love”. It darkens the soul and hardens the heart. Yet today Jesus tells us that “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” [Lk 14:26]. It is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to reconcile his instruction to hate ourselves and others with his constant message of love and forgiveness.

Apostle Paul in Prison

Apostle Paul in Prison

Throughout his public ministry Jesus always taught of love. He called it the greatest commandment. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind….You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Mt 22:37,39]. He gave us another commandment: “love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” [Jn 13:34-35].

At issue then is this word “hate” which is found uniquely in the Gospel of Luke and only in this particular passage.  Luke used the Greek word “miseo” which is literally translated as “hate. But biblical scholars have argued that in this instance “to hate someone” could arguably and justifiably be construed as “to love someone less” which is something different altogether.

Jesus is not telling us to “hate” as we know it, but to order our love, to love God first above all else, above father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even more than our own lives. Discipleship then requires a deeper commitment than family or friends, it requires us to love God first.

Beyond this message to “hate”, Jesus also demands that we renounce all possessions and carry the cross. This is the price of true discipleship and it isn’t easy; in fact it comes with a very heavy price tag, it costs us everything. Small wonder many choose to not pay the price.

Choosing Jesus, paying the price, is like purchasing gifts on layaway, we have to pay now for future reward.   For those willing to pay the price, Jesus offers the gifts of eternal life and everlasting peace and happiness with God.

We are taught from an early age to always read the fine print, to understand completely what will be required or what it will cost before signing up for anything. Jesus was brutally honest; he spared no words to tell his disciples that it would cost them everything to follow him. There can be no room for compromise or concession with God. We either give our lives over to him entirely or we keep them for ourselves. St. Paul tells us “We are not our own. We were bought with a price” ( 1 Cor 6:19b,20). That price is the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed for us upon the cross to redeem us from slavery to sin and death.

The love of God compels us to choose who or what will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or any possession above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges us to examine who we love first.

A perfect example of loving God before all else can be seen in the life and death of Saint Thomas More. When the Pope refused to grant King Henry VIII an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he might marry Anne Boleyn, Henry declared himself Supreme Head of the Church in England and demanded that Sir Thomas More sign an Oath of Supremacy.

Sir Thomas refused to sign the Oath, resigned as Chancellor, and went home. This angered Henry so much that he stripped Sir Thomas of all his property and imprisoned him, leaving his wife and children destitute and homeless.

Sir Thomas More lost everything; he lost it all, all his possessions, his wife and children, and ultimately, his life; all for love of God. This is the kind of hatred of life and loved ones that Jesus demands of us. St. Thomas More loved his family and his life, but he loved them less than his love for God.

He was steadfast in his love of God and true to himself. He could not have loved himself or his wife or his children or his neighbors better than he did. He simply placed God first. And that is what Jesus commands us to do as well.

Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor. The order is absolute and unchangeable. If asked to place something else before God, we must have the courage to refuse and say yes to God. Place God first and leave the rest behind, for nothing else matters.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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