Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral - 9/9/07
Wisdom 9: 13-18b - Philemon 9b-10, 12-17 - Luke 14: 25-23
In the Gospel of several weeks ago,
Jesus explained that as a result of his coming into the world there would be division of households father against son, mother against daughter,
not peace, but division.
That was a challenge for the reader, listener and the preacher.
And now we hear Jesus say that, in order to be a disciple,
a person must hate father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life.
Imagine you were one of the listeners in the crowd around Jesus.
You might be thinking: “How does he expect to gather a group of followers,
when he sets out such hateful requirements?”
We know that being a disciple of Jesus is not easy.
There are some Churches that seem to have no requirements,
nothing need be denounced or set aside,
just come and everything will be rosy.
Not the Catholic Faith; there are requirements in the Catholic faith.
Some things must be denounced; Jesus must take priority over everything.
All Christian religions, if they are truly Christian, must require
that Jesus be given priority over all possessions
and all other wants and desires.
But in today’s Gospel
Jesus is telling us just how difficult it might be,
if one chooses to be his follower.
He is saying that it might even come down to choosing
between Him and family.
Following Jesus might even require rejecting family.
The love we must have for Jesus,
the degree to which we must give ourselves to Him
must be absolute, taking priority over
giving ourselves to others in our family.
At times, others, their wants and needs, must be rejected
and this will be interpreted by them
as contempt for them or hatred for them.
We, ourselves, may even interpret our setting them aside
in favor of Jesus as our hatred for them.
And it’s not just anybody, Jesus was speaking of, it is family.
You might say that in applying his requirement to family,
Jesus was citing the worst case scenario.
We are often reminded that being a disciple of Jesus is costly.
Following Jesus would require that a wife denounce
her husband who is addicted to drugs.
If she intervenes, turns him in, in order that he get help,
he may interpret this as her lack of love for him,
as her hating him, and she may also have to deal with the question
of her love or hate for him in the process.
Such instances of so-called “tough love” are seen as hate.
“You hate me and want to see me punished?”
Discipleship requires that parents reject and correct
inappropriate behavior of their children.
Children, especially teenagers,
often characterize the correction meted out by parents,
usually the denial of privileges,
as an indication of their not being loved, or as their parents hating them.
Some parents shy away from such corrective actions,
because of the fear that their children will hate them.
Discipleship requires us to take a stand for the protection of all life
from conception to natural death.
Those who protest against abortion are seen as “hating”
the women and men who seek the convenience of an abortion.
Not helping them to be rid of the “inconvenience” of a pregnancy
is interpreted as a type of hatred toward them.
And even if it be a brother or a sister who is involved,
we must take the same action –
turn away from those who would have an abortion
and from those who promote abortion.
As disciples we must keep turned toward God.
And the result of our rejecting others
in favor of our faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus
may be that they will feel rejection.
Our “hatred” of them will result in their “hatred” for us.
The more I worked on this homily, the more I realized
I could list many more “hateful” situations.
And it was depressing, because “hate” is such a strong word.
Yes, Jesus used the word “hate;”
yet he tells us to love others as he has loved us,“unconditionally,”
to love others, our family, our friends
even those who have hurt us, our enemies.
And here he is saying that, if one comes to him
without hating those closest family members, that person cannot be a disciple.
How do we resolve this?
I believe that the resolution comes in recognizing that
we have a problem with what we mean when we say
that we “hate” a person.
The same is true with regard to the word “love.”
When we say that we love a person,
are we saying that we love what that person does
or do we mean that we love that person for who that person is?
When Jesus was saying that we must hate family members,
was he really saying that we should hate some things
that family members might do
or did he mean that we should hate family members for who they are?
I will just bet, that the people of Jesus’ times
had that same problem of expressing their love and hate.
We say that we hate the 9/11 terrorists.
But Jesus tells us to love your enemies.
The Jewish people hate Hitler.
But Jesus tells us to love those who persecute you.
Many hate those who killed little Marcus Feisel .
But Jesus tells us to love those who would kill you.
Some hate the mother who had a sexual relationship with her son’s friend.
But Jesus tells us to love those who would do such terrible things.
We hate what the terrorists of 9/11 did, but we must love them.
What Hitler did is to be hated, not the man.
What people did to Marcus Feisel is to be hated, rejected,
but the killers are to be loved.
The immorality of extra marital sex is to be hated, not the people involved.
A wife can love her husband and hate his addiction.
A parent can love a child and hate some behaviors.
We can hate abortion and love those who have suffered one.
We often find that making the distinction between the person
and what the person does is very difficult.
To be a follower of Jesus you must reject sin, reject the act of sinning,
even if it is the act of a family member.
We must reject the sinful acts of others,
no matter how close to us they might be.
It is certainly more difficult to reject the sinful acts
of a brother, a sister, a parent, a child, a spouse.
It is most difficult for us to reject the sinful acts of ourselves,
to hate what we may have done.
Jesus said the disciples would even have to hate their own lives,
hate the sin in their own lives, turn away from themselves in favor of Him.
That may actually be the worst case scenario.
The cost of discipleship is high; we who have committed to it,
must recognize sin in all of its forms and turn away from it,
reject it even if this causes problems with family members,
reject it even if it involves rejecting things that we have done.
Mahatma Gandhi was a political and spiritual leader in India,
a promoter of peace and non-violence, who was assassinated in 1948.
He was not a Christian, but a Hindu.
Yet he knew how a follower of Jesus can both hate and love.
He put it this way: “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”