I heard this brand new song by the Newsboys today for the first time today, and, as usual, the timing could not be more perfect. I still haven’t written a reflection on this weekend’s readings yet, in part because the words of Jesus in the Gospel are so shocking and unexpected:
“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.”
I’m pretty sure Jesus wasn’t condoning hatred. My pastor tried to explain this as Jesus using “rabbinic hyperbole,” that is, exaggerating to make a point. And the point is this – I can’t put God first while still putting anything else as my first priority. I have to be willing to abandon even my family connections if those connections get in the way of my relationship with God.
Not because God is demanding and wants me to abandon my family, but because in some cases, even our closest, most intimate relationships eat away at us and are not compatible with the way of the disciple.
A friend put it to me this way – the path of discipleship requires that I accept that I will never again have my own way.
Sometimes that’s a pleasant thing. Often God blesses us in ways we could never imagine when we let go of having things we think we want. Other times, it’s a season of heartache as we grieve lost hopes.
Living with abandon. That doesn’t sound like “hate” to me. And I think that’s what Jesus meant by those hyperbolic words. Carrying the cross means abandoning whatever it is that blocks us from communion with God. It’s not a personal malice. It’s a turning away, a letting go. It’s a turning toward, too.