Year C – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 8, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Wisdom 9:13-18b; Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17 (R/.1); Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Psalm 119:135; Luke 14:25-33

Does Jesus really mean what he says today?  Hate my parents?  My siblings?  My spouse and children?  Hate myself – and spend my life carrying “my cross?”  Hatred?  Surely this is taking loyalty to the teacher too far, for another commandment is that of honoring one’s parents, which cannot be contradicted.  This verse in Luke may create much anguish between zealous Christian sons and daughters and their parents, who believing they are expressing their devotion to Jesus, have no regard or worse, hatred, for their parents.  And one addition at the end, “Give up all possessions!”

What we have here is a Hebrew idiom buried in overly literal Greek.  Biblical Hebrew lacks the necessary language to exactly define the comparative sense, i.e., ‘more than’ or ‘less than’.  Instead, it tends to express two things which may be comparatively of a different degree like ‘first’ and ‘second’ as extremes like ‘first’ and ‘last;.  In this way, love and hate, while appearing as opposites, may in fact be related, but in lesser terms as ‘love more’ and ‘love less’.  In this way, Jesus does not command us to literally harbor hatred for our parents, siblings, spouses, or children; rather to be his disciple, Jesus commands us to hold him to a higher degree than our loved ones.

Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is the most radical commitment of our lives, and he calls us to make it whole-heartedly, allowing it to transform our lives and relationships, loving all others in Christ.  Following Jesus means working to bring about a renewed world, where a renewed sense of self goes beyond personal fulfillment, a renewed sense of family moves us beyond blood ties, and a renewed sense of sense of relationship with our possessions carries us beyond accumulation.

Paul is inviting his convert, Philemon, to enter into this new world by taking back a runaway slave, not punishing him, but treating him as a brother in Christ.  Thus begins the unraveling of a world in which slavery was acceptable.

What stands between you and Jesus Christ?  How can you overcome it?

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