"Even on the slaves shall I pour out my spirit…"

(Joel 3.1)

He never minced his words.
He was always very straightforward.

Once He said something really shocking.
There was a big crowd following him,
and turning around, he said,
"Whoever does not hate his mother, father, brothers, sisters, children,
and his own life too…
cannot be my disciple."
This was very hard to digest.
It still is.
So much so that many construe many interpretations around this word 'hate'.

Basically He is saying something really simple…
In our life as Christians, God comes first and foremost.
God first and then all the rest.
If anyone in some way or another distances us from God,
we need to sidestep that person,
we must, if necessary, hate him,
detest him, put him aside.
Even if this someone is someone in my own family.

Our affections many times distance us away from God.
How many parents quarrel between each other,
because of bickering of their children,
How many fathers and mothers work on a Sunday 'because of the family… ?'
How many mothers do away with their prayers or sacramental duties because of house keeping?
How many couples are not open to life because…

This word 'hate' however has a deeper meaning.
Jesus Christ is probing deeper.
He is telling us to hate our love,
because our love is neurotic.
Neurotic because under the pretence of love
we are just exploiting our parents, partners, children
for our basic need to be loved.

I love my wife as long as she says or does
what I deem to be correct.
If she dares to do something her way,
then I do not accept her anymore
And anger swells up in my stomach…
Because it is not her that I love.
I love myself in her.
So much so,
that I only love her when she is what she is supposed to be according to me.
The center is always me, me, me.
This is why my love is sick.

I work hard for my children.
But if I prod deeply,
I find that I love myself in my children!
In my children I want my dreams fulfilled,
I project all my ideals in them,
I see in them everything that I always wanted to be without ever succeeding.
So much so that if they do not live to my expectations,
if they somehow dissatisfy me
I feel disillusioned and bitter!
Somehow they have disappointed me!

We should not be shocked by all this.
Saint Paul said clearly -
the old man cannot love.
He needs to die, he needs to be immersed in the waters of baptism and killed.

The only approach to sanity is
to hate this selfish and neurotic love of ours;
to hate this empty heart which is distancing us from God
and which is forcing us to exploit the people that are near to us.
And let God create a new heart.
A heart that loves the others not because they are giving us something.
Or because they are the way we want them to be.
But a heart that loves the others as they are.

In order to build, many times one needs to pull down the old building.
In order to fill up, many times one needs to empty first.
In order to love one needs always to hate first.
Jesus Christ knows us well!

"Listen, Israel, to commands that bring life;
hear, and learn what knowledge means.
Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies,
growing older and older in an alien land,
defiling yourselves with the dead,
reckoned with those who go to Sheol?
It is because you have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would be living in peace for ever.
Learn where knowledge is, where strength,
where understanding, and so learn
where length of days is, where life,
where the light of the eyes and where peace."

(Baruch 3.9-14)

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.