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In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus urge a separation from family saying “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” (Lk. 14: 26).  His use of the word “hate” adds a harsh and abrupt feeling to what he is saying.  What could Jesus possibly mean by “hating” our families?  Does this not contradict his command to love even our enemies?

Evaluating these questions may be enabled by asking other questions.  Do our possessions or relationships, possess us or do we possess them?  Can we walk away from or live without them?  Jesus goes on to say, “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14: 33).  Jesus is calling his disciples and us to a greater awareness of our attachments and how they enable or hinder our discipleship.  Do we cultivate a level of detachment for the sake of the gospel?

This notion of detachment helps us to understand what Jesus is saying about our families.  The “hate” he requires is shocking, but it is meant to jar us into looking at how attached we are to our possessions and relationships.  To look at it from another angle would be to examine where God is in how we make our decisions and live our lives.  Is our relationship with God primary?  Does who we are as a disciple of Christ shape our decisions and our actions?  Do we allow ourselves to be possessed by a desire to live in God’s love over all else, enabling us to stand up for very difficult Gospel values?

Most of us will not encounter opportunities to stand up for the truth of the Gospel in a way that leads to a choice between life and death as the martyrs have done, but we all have our cross to carry.  Life brings its own burdens and sufferings.  We don’t have to go looking for them, they will find us.  What do we do with that?  Do we refuse them and sooth ourselves with some disordered behavior?  Do we carry them with complaining and self-pity?  Or do we carry them in a way that reflects the hope of the resurrection, and a trust in God’s love for us?  Jesus tells us discipleship requires us to “carry our own cross.”  In order to do this, we must place our trust in God’s love for us over all and let go of those things we are attached to for our own security and comfort.

So we can ask ourselves, How do our possessions possess us?  How does our relationship with God affect and influence our decisions?  Are we willing to let go of our attachments which give us a feeling of security for the sake of living the truth of the Gospel?

-Chris McCullough

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