The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
September 8, 2019 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 14:25-33
If you have been reading my gospel reflections for a while, you know that I view family life as very important. There are times when the needs of my family come first. For example, I pass on buying that new shirt, which I really want, because one of our children needs something more pressing. And I believe this valuing of family life is totally in line with my role as a follower of Jesus.
Thus, when I read the words in today’s gospel about hating one’s family, I was perplexed. Was Jesus serious about this? Is not Jesus pro-family? Shouldn’t social obligations within one’s family be first on the list of “things that must be done?” Doesn’t family come first?
What was Jesus thinking? A knowledge of history might help. In his time, people were not so much viewed as individuals, but more as members of groups. Family connection was all-important. Thus, Jesus was occasionally addressed as “Son of David” or people thought of him simply as “the carpenter’s son.”
But Jesus said there was another way to calculate personal importance. It involved seeing oneself as a child of God. In other words, family identity, even one that included a famous parent or ancestor, should not be the absolute center of our lives. What’s makes each of us important and should set the tone for our lives should be God’s relationship to us and our decision to be, first of all, one of God’s beloved disciples.
Further in today’s gospel, Jesus notes that being a true Christian does not make our life easier. It is not intended as a life of privilege. Those of us who are followers of Jesus accept the fact that we are to take up our cross daily and follow the way of Jesus. This path of life can be uphill and quite rough at times. But we also need to remember the words of Jesus that this burden is never too much for us. We will never be asked to do something that is beyond our strength.
Back to family life. Often the demands of discipleship will involve our family relationships. Family often gives us our nearest neighbour. Love of neighbour and God are number one in our Christian life. But we respond to those needs not so much because they are family obligations, but because at a deeper level, they are part of our Christian calling.
©David M. Thomas, PhD
REFLECTION QUESTIONS: Download this simple Observe-Judge-Act method for discussion with your family or your CFM group.