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    St. Mary's Parish
    211 Avenue O South
    Saskatoon, SK
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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nobody’s Favorite Gospel

By Alice Camille

It was meant to be the deal breaker, and it was. Hate your parents? Your siblings? Hate your spouse and children? Who can do this? Who can imagine Jesus would even want this?

Matthew quotes this teaching, softening the blow: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (10:37). To speak of higher loves is the kind of religion most of us can live with. It makes sense that Jesus demands our allegiance above all others—it makes sense, though many of us aren’t ready to accept that requirement. Our families are precious to us. We build our lives around the ideal of our happiness together. We’re rarely prepared to put any priority above that fundamental loyalty. Yet Jesus does ask it of us. Not just ask: He draws this precise line in the sand between disciples and fakers.

Luke chooses theatrical hyperbole in casting this teaching in terms of hate rather than higher love. Considering the style of Semitic discourse back then (and now!), Luke’s version is closer to what Jesus actually said. Turning your back on family is exactly what Jesus asks every disciple along the way to do. It’s what Elijah required of the farmer Elisha when he threw the prophetic mantle around his shoulders. Say goodbye to your folks, burn the yoke, and roast the oxen. You’re done here! Renunciation of the old life and a total embrace of the new is how conversion works. You can’t plow a new furrow while looking back over your shoulder. If the old way has a hold on you, looking backward immobilizes you into a pillar of salt.

Both Testaments are on board with this teaching, and are equally dramatic about it. Abram and Sarai must leave home and family to gain a land of promise and propagate a nation. Moses abandons his obscure shepherd’s life to become God’s man in Egypt. Throughout history, prophets are called and sent, despite the risk and the domestic cost. Did Amos wonder what was happening to his orchards back in Tekoa while he was denouncing Samaria? Walking away from the secure and familiar is what the freedom of the children of God is for. The word “familiar” includes, of course, family.

The word hate remains the deal breaker for many. Our world teems with hatred, and the media brings deeds of hate into our homes every hour. The chemistry of hate burns in the chest, destroys its host, and spreads harm everywhere. We don’t want to absorb that awful feeling. So forget emotions, and contemplate the real mandate, which is to renounce anything that stands in the way of fidelity to God’s call in your life. That’s challenge enough!

09 – September 4, 2016


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