Thursday, November 5, 2015

Love God and Hate Your Neighbor???

Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14-25-33 RSVCE)

From a quick reading of our gospel, it can appear that our Lord is trying to dissuade the great multitudes that followed Him. Picture this: Great multitudes of people are following a great leader. The man stops, turns, looks at them, and says: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple…Therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” It sounds as if the man was trying to discourage the people from following him. We, of course, know that He is not, because there is salvation in none other and it is His desire that all men be saved. Secondly, it appears that He has done a 180. The great commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. So, what is our Lord telling us?

St. Gregory has given me some insight on this when he says, “For then we right hate [ourselves] when we indulge not its carnal desires, when we subdue its appetites, and wrestle against its pleasures.” St. Chrysostom says regarding bearing our crosses, “He means not that we should place a beam of wood on our shoulders, but that we should ever have death before our eyes.” Now that we understand what it means to hate our own lives, I think it gives us better understanding of what our Lord is referring to when He says for us to hate your father, mother, wife, etc. I think that He is referring to those times when they are in sin and we, out of love for God and them, do not consent or tolerate the sin(s) they are committing. The world will see us as being bigoted or intolerant, not understanding that we hate what they are doing and, out of love, we confront them, which they see as “hate.”

Let’s take another example: We’re watching a movie. There is a cop, trying apprehend a murderer. The murderer grabs the cop’s wife, and puts a gun to her head, saying, “Put your gun down or I will shoot her.” What should the cop do? If he “loves” his wife and puts his gun down, the murderer goes free to murder again; or, if the cop “hates” his wife (from the world view), he kills the murderer, hoping his wife does not get hurt. Which is justice? Is it justice to allow a murderer to continue to kill? You cannot just “hope for the best.”

Now I want to focus on the words, “he turned.” Why are those words there? Why did not the evangelist just write, “Now great multitudes accompanied him, and he said to them…”? He very well could be emphasizing, “You are following Me, but you are not FOLLOWING me; you are not conforming yourselves to Me.” It is as if I was walking with my son and we were talking; then he stops, turns to me, not desiring that I misunderstand, and speaks to me. Because of the words, “he turned,” He is “turning” to us and saying, “You are not FOLLOWING me; you are not conforming to Me.”

We are not the Judge as to whether we are conformed to Him; He is. Therefore, we need to hit our needs, imploring His help. It would be better for us to go through our Blessed Mother, therefore loving her (our neighbor), allowing her to love us by interceding for us, and loving God also. We also can ask for help by going to Confession and asking others to pray for us, and we should be praying for others—even though they are not asking for prayer—because Jesus is speaking to them also—He is speaking to the great multitudes.

Jesus gives the example of building a tower. Is He saying that, if you deem you do not have sufficient means, you should not build the tower? This, then, would not fit what He has just put forth regarding hating your father, mother, wife, etc. The tower must be built, and we must find the means in which to build it. St. Gregory teaches: “Because He had been giving high and lofty precepts, immediately follows the comparison of building a tower, when it is said, For which of you intending to build a tower… For everything that we do should be preceded by anxious consideration. If then we desire to build a tower of humility, we ought first to brace ourselves against the ills of this world.”

The sufficient means is Jesus Christ and His Church. We must utilize these means at all times, because as St. Cyril says: “For we fight against spiritual wickedness in high places, but there presses upon us a multitude also of other enemies: fleshly lust, the law of sin raging in our members, and various passions, that is, a dreadful multitude of enemies.”

Then Jesus gives the example of the two kings. The Venerable Theophylact says regarding this example: “The king is sin reigning in or mortal body, but our understanding also was created king. If then he wishes to fight against sin, let him consider with his whole mind. For the devils are the satellites of sin, which being twenty thousand, seem to surpass in number our ten thousand, because that being spiritual compared to us who are corporeal, they are come to have much greater strength.” The “natural” impulse is to give up and give in to sin because sin is double our strength. For this reason, Jesus is telling us to do the seemingly impossible, which is not impossible because we will be turning to the King and His Church for aid.
--Tommy Turner

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: