Just this past week, the gospel reading for one of the daily Masses really challenged my understanding of Christ. The passage came from Luke and it sparked one of those moments where I had to stop and say, “Wait, what did I just hear? Did the reading really say what I think it said?” The first part of the reading was the following:
Luke 14:25 – 27 – Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
What made this even more of a confusing mixed message, was that the first reading (from Romans 13:8 – 10), clearly told us to “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” So how is a person to reconcile this conundrum? I would like to offer my perspective which I developed from the homily I heard and my understanding of what Christ’s message truly is. We can easily get stuck on the word “hating” and, if you’re like me, you probably have no idea what the original Hebrew word was in that sentence or if something was lost in the translation. To me, this verse speaks of Christ’s desire for us to see the concept of ‘loving others’ through the correct kind of lens.
If our view of true love is seen through the lens of how we are loved by others in this world (like our children, wife, mother and father), then we are bound to have moments of frustration, anger and even disillusionment with this concept. Why? Because we live in a broken world where we are not only hurt by people we don’t know very well, but also, we are often hurt by the very ones that are supposed to love us. If we, in turn, try to understand God’s love for us through this lens, it can lead us toward becoming frustrated with and confused about our faith. Let me explain it this way, if I grow up in a home where I was neglected or abused by my father and never had any type of relationship with him, my understanding of who God the Father is could be duly tainted. I could easily question the premise of God truly being a loving Father, because I cannot reconcile this image with my experience and knowledge of all the terrible atrocities going on in the world around me. How often do we hear someone say, “how could a loving God allow this situation happen. If He truly loved us He wouldn’t allow this to happen.” In a sense, my ‘smudged’ lens of human imperfect love, has the potential to allow my vision, even of those things that are beautiful and holy, to become muddled and problematic. This is what I believe Christ is wanting us to reject. He is not calling us to hate another person as much as He is calling us to reject letting our broken world define our understanding of love.
This is why He calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him. He is wanting us to see the world through the Godly lens of love. He is encouraging us to walk the road to Calvary with Him and to experience the depth of love that He has for us as He suffered and died to free us from the wretchedness of a life stuck in sin. When we see the world through this lens, it can help us to have pity on those who are duped by Satin and are stuck in sin. It can help us to truly love our spouse and kids in those times when they are not so likeable. It can lead us us to seeing meaning in suffering rather than just a daily drudgery we can’t avoid. And this Godly lens can greatly aid us in learning how to love our spouse with a supernatural and tender love that all of so very much desire. It is a matter of perspective. But as I tell many of my therapy clients, our perception is our reality.