"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

"Hate" Means “Loving less”


W
hen I applied to enter the Jesuit Novitiate, my own father did not approve. I was a fresh graduate in college so naturally the one who financed my education expected a little ROI or return of investment to fulfil my familial responsibility. My two youngest siblings were still in high school at that time. I was almost considering to defer my entrance to the religious life but God prevailed, as he always does. I asked the Lord for one last sign or confirmation that I should continue with my entrance on May 30, 2001. And God generously gave the last sign that I asked. Simultaneously with my application process my brother did not just pass the Electronics Engineer Licensure Examination, he ranked twelfth. No matter how petty, I took it as God's confirmation and assurance that God would take care of my family after I am gone.

During the first year of my stay in the novitiate, my father did not visit me. But I thought to myself it was a necessary space for him to go through. It was the time when God was cultivating in his heart his capacity to accept. He grieved what he viewed at first as a loss but in time the loss became his greatest gift, his greatest honor. Just a year after my profession of vows, my father passed away. But he left the world not empty-handed after all.

I believe Jesus too was confronted with familial tensions. No wonder we have a gospel account where Jesus in Luke 14 telling us to hate one’s father and mother in order to be His true disciple. The word hate is a good starting point to understand other gospel accounts like our gospel today. When I was already inside the seminary, I had to find my own inner peace with what I have chosen for my life. Did my Yes to God mean I had to stop honoring my parents or stop loving them? Definitely not! The fourth commandment is never watered-down. But God was calling me to a life of radical discipleship and overwhelming love for Him, such that even my great love for my own parents would seem pale and weak by comparison. Again, whenever we read in the Bible a similar context about hating our father, mother, brother, sister, and even one’s own life, in ancient Biblical Hebrew according to Dr Eliyahu Lizorkin-Eyzenberg in his book Jewish Insights into Scripture (p 11), the word "hate" only means “loving less” or “preferring someone or something else that is of greater importance.”

Secondly, I would like to ponder Jesus's words, "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Lk 12:49-53). In fact in the gospel of Mark too there was a bizarre behavior that his family members thought Jesus was was out of his mind and that he was shaming not only his own family but their entire village. Jesus's loved ones thought they had to do something about it. I think there are reasons in the early church for depicting Jesus' behavior like this. Jesus is presented not as someone who hates his own family. It does not say he is not close to his family. But perhaps this is a sign that his family showed little understanding of what he was doing. Jesus's message bore something that did not sit well, or it was counter-cultural and the effect is felt in the smallest unit of the Jewish community, the family. But we have to understand Jesus's mission, why he came. It was a mission that was so radical, it entailed sacrifices. When Jesus brushed off a compliment to his mother by saying that his family are those who hear the word and keep it. The radicality of his mission was not based on one's own familial ties or DNA. Jesus was consistent in practicing what he preached to the disciples to renounce their houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children and fields (Mt 19:27-29 [CF Mk 10:28-30; Lk 18:28-30]). When we hear Jesus warning of divisions and betrayal within the family for the sake of the kingdom we know that it is part of his mission to cause such divisions (Mt 10:34-36 [par Lk 12:51-53])! Whoever loves parents or children more than Jesus is not worthy of him (Mt 10:37 [par Lk 14:25-26; Gos Thom 55, 101]). One called to discipleship may not look back, even to bury a dead father, the final solemn duty of a son (Lk 9:61; Mt 8:21-22 [par Lk 9:59-60]).

For my third and final point I would like to contemplate the parents of Jesus. How did they understand his message? I would like to believe Jesus's radical message was a good news to his own parents. Jesus was telling Mary and Joseph to rely entirely on God. In fact Jesus must have grown through the years learning this virtue together with his parents. Even at the early age of twelve, Jesus taught his mother about the virtue of letting go and letting God. When Jesus got lost for three days, Mary first felt that her relationship with her son was starting to change. Of course, Jesus acknowledged and appreciated all the love and care that he got from Joseph and Mary but ultimately Jesus belonged to God. Mary learned so much during that one incident of losing and finding her child. Mary and Joseph must have been at their wits end thinking how could their son possibly do such a thing to them. At that early age of Jesus, it became another epiphany of Jesus being presented to the world in the sacrificing hearts of the holy couple. Together with Joseph, Mary must have gone through a sort of conversion too. She must have thought at first, like many mothers, that the responsibility of bringing up the child Jesus was not hers only. Definitely not! At a very early period in the life of our Lord, Joseph and Mary were reminded that it is all up to God. It is up to God how He will raise His only begotten Son.

I would like to end with a prayer that I contemplated the Blessed Virgin Mary must have uttered during that time.
"Abba, I am confused sometimes. I do not know what to say to my child. But even then I put all my trust in you. Because my child taught me one thing today. It is not I, even if I am the mother, but You alone are in charge."
May we all learn from Joseph and Mary how to entrust everything to God especially during these uncertain times—to let go and let God. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. This reminds of one commentary that mark in my heart about the moment when Jesus said his family are those who hear the word and keep it. By saying that Mary is the perfect example of hearing the word of God and follow it just she did on the Annunciation and all her life. She has endured lots of tensions to be faithful in following God and Her Son. Thank you for sharing your own story of fidelity to God's call and bearing the tensions. Inspiring! Be assured of my prayers. Semper fidelis!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing especially that of Mary's way of responding to God full of grace despite tensions! Thank you for the prayers too! GBU! 😇

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