Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel speaks of hating one’s own father, mother and even one’s own life. Jesus relates this to the fact that our life is like building a tower. One must count his own resources or run the risk of not completing the building. What does it mean to hate?

 I believe none of us would expect God to tell us to hate. The use of this verb is so controversial that some texts now translate it as “love less”. Nonetheless, the Greek verb “miseo” literally means to hate. So, what is Christ ask­ing us to do? Probably before defining the word hate, we should spend more time in understanding what love is, as it is such a mystified word today. We relegate love to the sphere of sentiments and understand it only partially. There are different degrees of love, or better, different types of love. The highest type of love is the love that has been shown by Christ in the cross, which is the love for the enemy. God is a jealous God and he wants to become the primary object of our love. So, the first step in understanding this text is to ask ourselves whom are we loving today?

We naturally love our parents, spouses, chil­dren and siblings. There is a natural love that arises from the easy familiarity of kinship. Jesus does not condemn this but wishes to purify it. Our human love for our parents is burdened by our desire for their es­teem, affection, even their goods. This can keep us from speaking the truth to them or making choices with our life that reject worldly logic and planning. The fear of losing their affection can pin our soul to the ground like a bird in a net. Their love can make us reject the path that leads to life. And so, we must ‘hate’ them, that is, hate our earthly way of relating to them and our slavery to their affections that puts itself in a primai·y place above our love for God and willingness to follow Him. Christ wants to purify our love for them and ourselves in a way that leaves both free to do the will of God and love him above all things. The possi­bility of losing pai·ental love is pa1i of the cost of building the tower, as is the self-denial implied in fol­lowing Christ. Establishing Christ’s reign in our hearts comes at a very real price: do we have the resources to continue along the path of discipleship when it re­quires real renunciation?

And if I am to hate my kin, how is it then that Christ asks me to love my enemies? Again, by refer­ring my relationship with them to Christ. They need to be loved by Christ and freed from slavery to sin. Christ is present in my enemy, asking me to love Him as he has loved me. Here again, is the cost of building the tower. Am I ready to hate my own life? Am I willing to renounce my human way of thinking and relating to others? Renounce defending myself, my time, my plans? God’s love is a jealous love and He wants to be the primary object of our love. His love takes primacy over our human relationships, even those with our own parents and our own life. He wants to purify our loves so that we may love him above all things and experience true freedom.