Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Gospel commentators call Jesus’ shocking statement that his followers are to hate their families a “Semiticism.” This means that it was a way of expressing oneself in the Semitic language that Jesus spoke. Evidently his native Aramaic did not use comparatives. For Jesus to indicate that his disciples have to love him more than their families, he has to say that they must love him and hate their families. Of course, he does not mean that they are to scorn their loved ones. After all, how could Jesus, who taught the primacy of love of God and neighbor, mean that we are to literally hate those who are closest to us?
But some of us may have difficulty with the idea of even loving Jesus more than our families and close friends. “How can he expect that of us?” we might ask. To answer the question we should make a distinction. To love Jesus above all is not to say that we always feel greater affection for him than for other loved ones. Although we are to love him with all our heart, this does not crowd out affection for others. Rather it means that we set our hearts on doing his will first and foremost. Out of admiration of his goodness and gratitude for his sacrifice, we give him our primary allegiance.
The result of such a relationship with Jesus enables us to love others not less but more. To alter Shakespeare’s Othello’s famous line, we can love family and friends both wisely and well. Allegiance to Jesus means doing what is truly good for all. We will not confuse indulgence with care and submit to the whims of children. We will not accept the prejudices that pervaded our parents’ home but treat all people with respect. We will not allow communication with our spouses to shrivel when we become aware that they think differently but always make an effort to convey our deepest feelings.