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Homily for Wed of the 31st Wk in OT, 8 Nov 2023, Lk 14:25-33
For most Filipinos who love family dearly this Gospel text is very hard to swallow. How could Jesus, who taught us nothing but love, teach us to hate family?
There is however a background to this text that will keep us from misunderstanding it. It has to do with one of the accusations of many Jewish families against some of their family members who had been ostracized from the Jewish faith for joining the early Christian communities. They were denounced by their families. They were called “family haters.” That is why they needed a new family called the Church that would welcome them. And those that welcomed them were also families—people who had the good fortune of embracing the faith along with the rest of their family members.
I imagine Jesus saying these words “tongue in cheek.” Try to google the expression and you’ll get the following definition: “an idiom that describes a humorous or sarcastic statement expressed in a serious manner.” In short, what Jesus was saying was, “If you want to be my disciple, you have to be ready to be called by many names or even accused of being ‘family haters.’”
I know a contemplative nun who told me how her brother called her up and pleaded with her to come home when her mom was dying. She had known and accepted from the start when she joined that there was no turning back the moment she entered contemplative life, that she could not be allowed anymore to return to her family. Her brother was so disappointed he stopped talking to her. But she sent her personal rosary to the hospital and asked a friend to tell her mother she would accompany her in prayer at her death bed. She did, kneeling down before the Blessed Sacrament for 48 hours of fasting and prayer. Her mother died a peaceful death, conscious that her daughter had been there not just beside her but in her heart while clutching on her rosary. The daughter ended up being more present to her mother than her own brother who was still seething in anger and resentment.
No, we’re not told to denounce family. But renounce family and possessions in the name of a greater love, that’s what Jesus is talking about.