Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 4, 2016
Last Sunday afternoon, within the span of about 90 minutes, I was contacted by four different friends. Two were driving back from East Lansing, one was in route home from Ann Arbor (Go Blue!) and the fourth was sitting at home pondering the fact that the next day his pride and joy would begin her college career locally. Three of my friends were experiencing for the first time the mixed emotions a parent feels when sending their child off to college. The fourth was a veteran, having made the trip with a van full of “essentials” several times before. This time it was the youngest. It was clear from his tone of voice that it hadn’t become any easier. Actually, knowing that he was returning home to an empty nest left him even more vulnerable to the dark side of the mixed emotions.
It’s hard letting go!
And yet, in this week’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be encouraging friction and division even within immediate families. Can He really be calling us to “hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters”? Certainly, that is the surface meaning of what He is saying. But, unless we dig deeper, we stand the risk of using the Gospel of peace and love to promote and justify the kind of violence and terror that is plaguing our world.
It might be helpful to ponder how the Lord ends the list of people “to be hated” and then look to our First Reading for a deeper meaning. “If anyone comes to me without hating…even (their) own life, (they) cannot be my disciple.” Another confusing statement. Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, what is there about ourselves that we could possibly hate?
The Book of Wisdom spells it out in clear and simple terms. We can “hate” our limitations. We can “hate” those things about us that are the consequence of the original sin. That first bad choice left us broken, limited, and far less than The Creator intended us to be. Few of us will ever be able to totally overcome these limitations while in our earthly bodies. However, we can compensate for our spiritual disabilities by consciously planning and then building a life on the foundation of the Gospel. But, it is an expensive project.
The cost of discipleship is an unconditional commitment to Jesus Christ…even at the expense of our loved ones…even if it means ignoring our own desires and needs. It is hard letting go!
My friends, who sent their college freshmen off to the next phase of their lives, face some pretty stiff costs. They are making the necessary sacrifices because they know that it is worth the expense to help make their children’s future more successful. How much more important is it to invest in our spiritual lives, where the goal is eternal life? Who counts the cost when salvation is at risk?