Reflection: Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

 Mass is conducted in a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

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[1st Reading – Wis.9:13-18; Ps.89; 2nd Reading – Phil.1:9-10,12-17; Gospel – Lk.14:25-33]

Jesus’ teaching is usually quite straight forward, but occasionally we find expressions that, if not looked at from the proper point of view, can be confusing.  Today’s gospel is one of these occasions.  Some of the phrases, if taken at face value, can mislead us to miss Jesus’ message of love and presence of God in one’s life.  Jesus says: “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple”.  Jesus specifically used the verb ‘to hate’ which is quite a strong negative word not often found in Jesus’ teaching vocabulary.  ‘To hate’ is the total opposite of ‘to love’.  If Jesus came to bring the message of love and to be himself the personification of love, how is it that he now speaks of hate?  Especially when he talked about hating those who are intimately close and immediate family relatives … including one’s own self?

If this sentence is taken literally (and separately out of context), it can be misleading but when taken within the right context, one can better understand the meaning that Jesus wants to convey in this ‘hatred’ that he speaks about, especially if one links it up with the last phrase in the gospel paragraph: “… none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions”.  Notice how Jesus also lists all the various different people first before the mention ‘all his possessions’ i.e. not a possession that one can do whatever one wants with the person, but a possession that comprises also a certain relationship.  Jesus mentions the family members, i.e. those intimate relatives where each one of them, in his/her own way, is not only important in one’s life, but also an ‘object of love’ through the ‘natural relationship’ that one has with them.  This is true also with one’s own self because one should naturally love his/her own self.  Therefore, when Jesus speaks about giving up one’s possessions, in this context he is also speaking about giving up this ‘natural’ love for a ‘supernatural’ love when one becomes a disciple of Christ.  This ‘natural love’, once given up to become a disciple of Christ, is then automatically given back to the person so he/she loves not only him/herself but also others, and not just the intimate relatives with whom he/she has a natural bond.

Thus the use of the word ‘hate’ in Jesus’ teaching today, is not about the ‘hate’ as described in the dictionaries (e.g. total lack of love).  Jesus’ use of the word ‘hate’ is about shifting the love that one has to have either for God or for one’s own self and others.  It denotes a contrast between God and others.  In other words: Who do I love?  Who do I ‘hate’?  One can say that normally we can love both, but on a different level.  Whilst this might be true, if I love myself ‘more’ or my intimate relatives ‘more’ closes me into myself and does not help me to be a true disciple of Christ.  On the one hand, I can say I ‘hate’ Christ to ‘love’ myself and others. On the other hand, I can say loving God/Christ ‘more’ gives me the opportunity to love myself and my intimate ones better.  Therefore I ‘hate’ the others in order to ‘love’ Christ more – who in turn will then help me love the others better…. Thus one being in contrast with the other becomes an exclusive choice.  Expressed simply in other terms: Who has the most important place in my heart? God? Me? Others?  Whatever we do in life must also include the love for God and the presence of God in one’s life.

“Lord, you came to bring us the love of the Father.  Give us this precious gift and help us to love you ‘more’ in our life.  Thank you Lord!”

 

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )

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