Christ on the Way to Calvary, di Paulo c.1426, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
[Jesus said] “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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”. Luke 14:26-27.
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No prizes for those reading the extract from today’s gospel above who were more than struck by one word there: hating. At the very least it has a very uncomfortable feel about it. It is the Lord speaking, so it must mean more than the popular meaning of the word, mustn’t it? We must hate evil in all its terrible forms of course. We must hate what is done to others which brings suffering and injury, mustn’t we? But those meanings do not appear in the scene taken from today’s gospel. Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd who must have realized they were in the presence of a very holy man, one whose words could be trusted and even obeyed…. but this?
So I ran to the experts for guidance. This from Fr. Ray Brown in the Jerome Biblical Commentary: “Luke adds these words to the form found in Matthew 10:37; however, no convincing reason can be found to show that Jesus did not utter them. hate: The force of the word is Semitic; in Matthew the expression “loves father or mother more”, shows hate must be understood in the sense of “love less” (JBC p.148). Well, first, it might ring a bell concerning the gospel of the 20th Sunday, three Sundays ago. That was when Jesus proclaimed he was not bringing peace but rather division, with families divided against each other. Today seems even stronger, with that word “hate”. So this is a topsy-turvy Scriptural passage for us, making us sit up and pay attention. Doing some research helped a great deal. Take a look at this enlightening article on what Fr. Brown meant when he said “the force of the word is Semitic”. Remember that Jesus spoke Aramaic, a Semitic language. Anyone who is bilingual or trilingual knows that thought patterns differ a little according to the language being spoken.
The Semitic understanding of hate is more akin to avoiding pain than the English understanding of the word, perhaps one might say it is more passive in the Semitic understanding as opposed to the more active sense of the English. Note that languages often have words unique to themselves that are untranslatable into another language. For example, the words procrastinate, silly, and judgmental do not have equivalents and cannot be translated directly into French without a full explanation. Perhaps hate is the closest word we have to the Semitic understanding of avoiding or staying away from a source of pain. And so, anything or anyone who is not Jesus/Father/Holy Spirit, the source of all life, light and love, has to be a source of pain. And that would have to include ourselves! Now look at the gospel quotation above and see if it makes more sense. So if the source of life and light carries a cross, so must we, as it connects us to him. And remember Jesus carried his cross willingly, as it represented his total obedience to the mission given to him by his Father. We have the identical mission, to be Christ to the world, even if we will probably not have to carry a cross as devastatingly heavy as his. So once that has been accepted, we then must act, speak and behave like the Lord, the incarnation of love and service to family, friends, colleagues, enemies, everyone. It was that total confidence in God, his Father, that gave Jesus the strength to carry his cross. We must have the same total confidence in a God of Love which enables us to carry our own cross through life’s storms, at the same time being Christ to the world so that all can see in us the disciples of an all-loving God.
Christian Quotes: Three Ways to Love God.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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