Following of Jesus confronts us with hard choices and jars any notion that being a Christian leads to social enhancement and personal betterment. Carrying our crosses means to love others by denying ourselves, a life of self-sacrifice.
One of the ten commandments is to honour our parents. The entire Sacred Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, is full of admonitions to children to honour and respect their parents. We can also presume that as a son, Jesus held Mary and Joseph in high esteem. Jesus truly loved his relatives and even told us to love our enemies, so why not our parents? How are we going to understand Jesus’ demand to hate one’s parents?
There are those who think that today’s call for discipleship, with its radical demand of detachment from family ties and possessions, refers only to a group of professed religious and celibates, and does not pertain to all Jesus’ believers and followers. Our experience tells us that many priests, especially the diocesan ones have not left their parents literally and are living with them in the convents. Many relatives also of religious are employed in the institutions like school and hospitals.
GOSPEL: In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the crowd who continues to follow him. It is not addressed to a select few. Luke says a great crowd was with Jesus. Therefore to the large crowd travelling with Him, Jesus delivers these sharp words about the demands and priorities of discipleship. If they are contemplating being more than hangers on and intend to be regular diners at Jesus’ table, they need to know what they are getting into and decide whether they can sign on for the long haul. Jesus is no demagogue, intoxicated with popular success, who incites the crowd to follow him blindly not knowing where he would lead them.
1.First, Jesus asks us to detach from family ties. Hating one’s parents is a Semitic hyperbole to mean preference at once deliberative, absolute and complete. It implies that our family ties need to be purified by making Jesus our priority. Our love for the members of our family must be purged by the self-emptying love of Jesus. We know that what ails us as a nation economically and politically is rooted in strong family ties, as the interest of the family is pursued at the expense of the common good. Foremost of which is graft and corruption. It used to be the husband, now it is the brother-in-law. Political dynasty is another. We here in Makati are not strangers to this political chimera. Another ill that afflicts us is the bloated government bureaucracy to give way to the long list of extended family members. The love of the family members should not be sought in themselves but in order that the love experience within the family should overflow into the greater society.
2. Secondly, Jesus asks us to renounce all material possessions. Material possessions have a seductive appeal that can turn them quickly from being servants to being masters. The whole issue that grips the nation today about pork barrel says it all. Billions of taxes are collected from ordinary people to finance the lavish lifestyle of some of our politicians. Money has a way of making us callous to the cries of the people. Our honourable legislators have brought disrepute to our revered institutions. Those who languished in shame before, look like angels with the magnitude of this pork barrel scam. This danger of possessions and wealth is not only happening in the corridors of power. It is also a danger in the inner sanctum of the Church. One Vat. II official was arrested because of money laundering. Charismatic groups have gone separate ways because of money matters.
3. Lastly, detachment from family and possessions can be summoned up in the invitation to carry our cross. Following of Jesus confronts us with hard choices and jars any notion that being a Christian leads to social enhancement and personal betterment. Carrying our crosses means to love others by denying ourselves, a life of self-sacrifice. There are fundamentalist groups and catholic charismatics preaching prosperity gospel seducing others by promises of riches at hand. A new generation today that calls itself, “SELFIE”, a new breed of young adults who pride themselves without financial dependents and whose typical two year priority is to splurge on lifestyle-related consumer items like gadgets and cars. It is a generation that has made selffulfilment, not self-denial as a goal in life. They are bound to be disappointed for we are creatures of the spirit and only spiritual realities can satiate us.
as published on Sept. 8, 2013 Parish Bulletin