Whom do you serve?

Whatever you possess is never yours to store or stash away; it is a gift on loan from God to assist you in living as Christ taught us. Have you ever taken inventory of all your possessions? How tightly do you hold them? How hard would it be to give some or everything you possess away? Do you possess your possessions or do your possessions possess you?

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Jesus once told a great crowd, “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….In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”[1] That really doesn’t sound at all like Jesus, does it? Throughout his entire public ministry Jesus preached and taught of love: love of God, neighbor and self. Yet here he quite clearly and unequivocally states that in order to be one of his disciples we must hate those with whom he has consistently called us to love! It truly seems to be a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma![2]

Here again, we find ourselves encumbered by our linguistic understanding and cultural bias for that word: hate. Luke’s Gospel, written in Greek, uses the word miseo which literally translates to hate in English, which has resulted in some critics insisting that Jesus was really preaching hate. Fortunately claims of “hate speech” can quite easily be debunked and dismissed.

Ancient biblical languages such as Aramaic and Hebrew contain far fewer words than modern languages which necessarily result in the use of more extreme language due to the lack of more nuanced verbiage. For example, there is no word for “like” in Aramaic or biblical Hebrew. Biblical scholars and theologians for the most part agree that in the context of the passage from Luke’s Gospel the word miseo would be better interpreted as “to love less than” rather than hate given our more extreme prejudice for that word.

There are additional instances to be found in the Old Testament that further support this interpretation, for example: Genesis 29:30, Judges 14:16, and Deuteronomy 21:15-17, although some Bibles have softened the language by replacing hate with dislike or even love less although in each of these instances, miseo is the word used in the Greek translation.

We find miseo again used by Jesus when he says “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”[3]

Something else to consider, while subtle, is critically important to greater understanding, and that is this: we must ask exactly what Jesus considers to be possessions. It isn’t just material goods that we possess, rather Jesus considers all of God’s creation, including humanity, and that adds an entirely new dimension to his message.

His message remains the same; it is a matter of establishing the proper priorities. Love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself. As Christians we must love God more than, not less than.

[1] Lk 14:26-27, 33.
[2] Winston Churchill, radio broadcast, October 1939.
[3] Lk 16:13.

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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