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Mass prep – 3 points/30 seconds: What does Jesus mean about hating family?

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Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik - published on 09/03/22

In the Bible, the expression “to hate” means “to love less," as Leah explains about Jacob.

The Gospel for this Sunday is here.

1. Love or hate?

When reading today’s verses of the Gospel one can easily fall into a trap. Does Jesus really urge us to hate others?

To better comprehend the meaning of these words we should be aware of their Jewish context.  

2. Key words

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.

This sentence from the Gospel is one of the most difficult to understand. How is it possible that Jesus, who talks so much about love of God and neighbor, should say such words! To understand this, one must read the text in the context of Jewish culture. 

In the Bible, the expression “to hate” means “to love less.” For example, in the Old Testament, Leah says the Lord has heard that she was loved less by her husband Jacob (Gen 29:33). The word used in the Hebrew original is precisely the word “hate” (senu’a). 

The very same word is used by Jesus to indicate that those who want to follow Him must choose loving Jesus as their first and foremost love. Such love does not by any means exclude loving one’s family or oneself. However, the love of Christ is the greater love.  

In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions, cannot be my disciple.

When calling the disciples, Jesus does not begin by making promises, but rather sets out His requirements. Another condition relates to material things.

Jesus’ disciples hold God to be the greatest treasure of their lives. Jesus invites those who want to follow him to love him more than everything they have, more than material possessions. This does not mean that they cannot enjoy what is necessary for everyday living. However, things must never obscure God, the disciples’ mission and what really matters to them.  

3. Today

“If God comes first, all is in the right place;” the words of St. Augustine help us to understand today’s verses of the Gospel. They moreover help us come to terms with our own lives.

What do I hold important in my life? What prevents me from treating God as the most important? 

Today, I will ask Jesus to be forever important in my life and to help me love Him the most.  

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