If anyone comes to me without hating...

Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for today's homily

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.

Luke 14:25

No -
this gospel does NOT give us license to “hate” anyone!

Jesus does use some very strong language here
about our relationships with our loved ones
and the impact they have on our following him.

Thought he’s not counseling us to actually hate anyone
he is calling us to a rigorous evaluation
of how we love and whom we love --
how we love God and one another.

Jesus is speaking here to first century Mediterranean people,
people living in tightly knit compounds,
in the security of their extended family.

Their existence and survival depended entirely
on their connection with the family -
anyone cut off from family ties could, literally, not survive.

All the more compelling then, when Jesus says to such folks,
“If you want to follow me,
you’ll need to love me more than you love your parents;
love me more than you love your spouse, your children,
your brothers and sisters;
you’ll need to love me more than you love yourself…”

Jesus is saying that for us who follow him,
no connection, no tie, no dependency can be more important than
our connection with, our ties to, our dependency on -- him.

That’s not to say we can’t make room for others in our hearts -
but it is to say that of all we hold dear in our hearts,
Jesus asks for first place.

So a question for each of us today might be this:
who holds the first place in my heart?

Some scripture scholars suggest we try to understand this passage
in terms of preference rather than hate - like this:
If you want to follow me,
you’ll need to prefer me to your parents;
you’ll need to prefer me to your spouse, your children,
your brothers and sisters;
you’ll need to prefer me to your very self…

So, then we might phrase our question this way:
“In my heart of hearts, when push comes to shove,
when the rubber hits the road,
when it’s time for me to walk the talk,
whom do I prefer?”

• When I’m faced with a choice between right and wrong,
do I prefer the Lord’s way - or my own?

• When I have an opportunity to serve others,
do I prefer to serve the Lord
or my own ease and pleasure?

• When I’m at a crossroads in my life and must choose a path,
do I prefer the road the Lord calls me to follow
or the path of my own choosing?

• When I’m pressured at school or at work
to do something I know is wrong,
do I prefer what Jesus would do
or whatever helps me get along?

• When it comes right down to is this:
do I prefer to follow the Lord and his Word
or do I prefer to do things my way?

If you want to follow me,
you’ll need to prefer me and my way to all others;
you’ll need to prefer me to your very self.
If you don’t carry your own cross and follow me
you cannot be my disciple.

Make no mistake about it.
We live in a culture which pulls us in exactly the opposite direction.
We live in a culture that encourages each of us
to make our own decisions independent of other authority.

Our culture invites each of us to reign supreme
in the individual court of our own authority
and cautions us to never advise others what to do --
much less question the personal authority they might claim.

In his own strong language,
Jesus invites us here to despise, to renounce,
anyone or anything challenging his primacy
in our hearts, our minds and our deeds.

He invites us to love him above all else
and to prefer the Word of his truth in everything we do.
And he invites us to carry the burden of such fidelity
even when it feels like carrying a cross.

These are very hard sayings, but here’s the sweet center of it all:
the cross we carry is a share in the Cross
where the Lord himself gave each of us
first place in his heart.

Calvary is the crossroads where Jesus preferred us to himself,
preferred our life and joy to his own:
the place where he renounced everything for our sakes.

The Eucharist is the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
At this table he nourishes us with his own Body and Blood
to strengthen us to carry the cross as faithful disciples.

May the meal we celebrate and receive at this altar
make us grateful for the Lord’s love
and strengthen us to give him first place
in our hearts and in our lives.

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1 comment:

  1. Absolutely Splendid. You deserved the tuna, wasabi and chardonnay after this !!


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