Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, bishop
(Romans 13:8-10; Luke 14:25-33)
Gospel commentators call Jesus’ saying that his followers are to hate their families a “Semiticism.” This term means the way Jesus’ contemporaries expressed themselves in their own language. Evidently the Aramaic language, which Jesus spoke, did not use comparatives. For Jesus to mean that his disciples had to love him more than their families, he had to say that they were to love him and to hate their families. Of course, he never intended that they were to scorn their loved ones. After all, how could Jesus -- who taught about the primacy of love long before St. Paul wrote about it to the Romans – want us, his followers, to literally hate those who mean the most to us?
But still some of us may have trouble with the idea of loving Jesus more than our children and our parents, to say nothing of our spouses. “How could we do that?” we might ask. The answer is both simple and hopeful. First, we can and should love Jesus above all because he is so good – really perfect. Then, by loving Jesus above all, we actually love our children, our parents, and our spouses not less but better. Primary allegiance to Jesus means doing what is truly good for all. We will not confuse indulgence with care and give in to the whims of our children. We will not accept the prejudices that lived in our parents’ home but treat all people with respect. We will not allow communication with our spouses to shrivel but make a continued effort to express our thoughts and feelings.