By Fr. Enrico Parry, Diocese of Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Don’t worry. Jesus is not undoing the ten commandments, the bit about honour your father and mother. Neither is he breaking up the family. Hate them to love me. You know Jesus, we have been listening to his gospel all our life. He does it again here, exaggerating to make his point, to get the attention of the crowds who just love the sensation. And once he got them to really listen he teaches them about carrying the cross and coming after him. Spoiling the moment. Yes it is one of the ten commandments, he says, but it isn’t first in the list. That place belongs to God. Family, neighbours and their things come after the first few commandments. God comes first. God should be most important, priority.
Jesus’ hate speech jolts us into looking at our priorities, our list of absolutely important things. At baptism we make a commitment for life that God will come first. And then we go through all that training in catechism and faith formation to help us stay faithful. If we have the tendency to relegate God and God’s things to somewhere low on our list and concentrate on life’s important things, Jesus is loud and clear on what we are to do.
It’s a big ask. Because to keep on doing what we have to do according to our calling, whether it is parenting, spousing, priesting and what not, and to keep on putting God first is as we well know a difficult thing. It’s almost like carrying our cross and following him. But he doesn’t leave us to our own designs. At baptism and along the way we get God’s own Spirit to help us do just that. Which enables us to do everything as if we’re doing it for the Lord, as Paul wrote somewhere.
So, don’t worry, it’s not about hating your loved ones to go after Jesus. You will love them even more when you “keep your eyes upon Jesus”, as the song goes.