We oftentimes underestimate the cost of discipleship. Today, Jesus gives us what appear as harsh words in one of the most difficult passages of Luke’s Gospel (14:26, 33): “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. … In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (NAB) Jesus seems to be using extreme language, but it is important to understand what is meant by his particular choice of words.
“Hate” is used several times throughout scripture to mean, “love less.” (cf., JGS 14:16; DT 21:15-17) We must be careful to not attach meaning to this language out of context. The use of extreme language is oftentimes a method of gaining attention, and Jesus’ use of the word “hate” draws listeners in and compels them to think carefully about his teaching, considering its deepest meaning. This is most especially clear when we consider the totality Jesus’ teachings regarding love, even calling us to love our enemies (i.e, those who hate us).
Thus, we should understand this scripture to mean that we who are called to discipleship are to place that call above everything and everyone else, including our loved ones, our possessions, and even ourselves – we are to love them less than God. Our relationship with Jesus should become #1 in our lives, supreme to every other connection, bond, and attachment, precisely because it becomes the very foundation for every other relationship in our lives, including how we understand ourselves. Lord, help me to properly prioritize my life, placing you first, seeking you first, and loving you first. Then, I may properly and truly love others, according to your will and for your glory. Amen.
Link to today’s Mass Readings