When “Hatred” Becomes a Command
Homily on the 23rd Sunday in OT, 4 Sept 2022
Every time I come here to celebrate Mass in this Parish I look forward to see something new. The first time I celebrated Mass here was actually two and a half years ago and since this church didn’t have a roof yet we were gathered in that small temporary shed over there. Today I am glad to see something new in the on-going construction of this church. The ceiling above the sanctuary has partly been installed. And it shows that there is continuous support that comes from you, our dear parishioners, and your undying support tells us that this church will definitely be completed soon. The more donations come in, the faster its completion will be.
When St John Bosco built the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin more than a hundred and fifty years ago he actually did not have the funds for the project. Similarly when he was tasked by the Holy Father to build the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Rome, neither he nor the Pope had the funds to construct it. Nevertheless, because of his full trust in Divine Providence monetary donations soon came pouring in from both the rich and the ordinary people alike. And after some years he was able to complete both projects one after the other. Today, these churches are among the most beautiful and most majestic basilicas in Italy.
We are now on the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we come together to worship the Lord on this holy day, God also comes to nourish us with both his divine Word and his sacred Body. In the gospel passage we have heard today Jesus teaches us something that seems to be very hard to accept. He says “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.”
Hating someone is bad, isn’t it? And what could be worse than that is to hate one’s parents and other members of the family. Didn’t Jesus teach us that we should love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27ff)? You can check that out yourselves by reading chapter 6, verse 27 of the same gospel written by Luke. So, why is Jesus teaching us in chapter 14 to hate the very people we should love? Doesn’t he seem to be contradicting himself?
Absolutely not! It is important for us to understand the proper context of what Jesus is saying and teaching. The opening verse of this passage tells us that great crowds were following Jesus. They were listening attentively to his teachings and most probably when they went home at the end of the day they shared with their families whatever they heard from Jesus. That is where the struggle usually began. That is where the conflict among them usually arose. When parents or other members of the family had become too attached to their old Jewish beliefs and practices that they could not accept the new teachings of Jesus, they could truly discourage other members in following Jesus. In fact that was the tragedy. After three years the great crowds that used to follow him suddenly turned against him cheering loudly for his death on the cross. Only a few of his disciples remained faithful and courageously stood by him on Calvary.
Doesn’t it happen at times that one’s parents, if not other members of the family, become a hindrance or an obstacle to achieve one’s dreams? A young man may fall madly in love with a girl whom his parents do not like. Chances are he will soon break up with the girl and hate his parents for it, or if he chooses to pursue that girl he will soon end up being thrown out of the house.
Let me give you a more concrete example. Every year a good number of senior high school students come to visit our seminary for a three-day search-in. And after their beautiful experience, many of them express a strong interest to enter the seminary after their graduation. However when enrolment time comes most of them change their mind and do not show up anymore, because their parents want them first to finish college outside before allowing them to enter the seminary. I’m afraid it is to them that the words of Jesus might be particularly addressed “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,… and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” A true lover and follower is one who can give up anything or anyone else in order to be with his beloved. In other words loyalty to Christ should be over and above loyalty to one’s family and friends.
May this Eucharist move us to follow Jesus faithfully despite being opposed or discouraged by our own family and by the very people whom we love. GiGsss!
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