In the first reading today from Philippians 2, St. Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” He then goes on to say, “Do everything without grumbling or questioning.” In other words, St. Paul expects Christians to be positive people! Not always easy, but when we do, we will “shine like lights in the world.”
In the Gospel reading from Luke 14, Jesus tells a large 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.” What’s that, Jesus? We have to hate our family to follow You? That kind of seems counter to the message of love that Jesus constantly preached, doesn’t it? So what’s up with that?
It’s all about context. In ancient times, the word we translate as “hate” had a much different meaning than it does today. We think of hate as an absence of love. But in a biblical sense, this word really meant “to love less.” So Jesus isn’t telling us not to love our family. He is saying that we must love our family (and everything else) less than we love Him. Our love for Christ must supercede all else. Interestingly enough, when that happens, our love for our family (and others) grows even greater. The more we love Jesus, the more we will be able to love others.
Father, help us to love Jesus more than anything else in the world. May our love for Him grow, so that our love for others may grow. Amen.