Readings for September 8, 2019
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
No, Jesus is not refuting or re-writing the Fourth Commandment to honor your father and mother when he says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother … he cannot be my disciple.” In the context of the time and language of the Bible, “hate” means to lessen the importance of something. Jesus, then, is actually following the precedence of honor set in the Ten Commandments, the first three about honoring God, the fourth exclusively to honor your father and mother, and the following five honoring neighbor. God is first, then mother and father, then neighbor. (Importantly, note that there is no honoring of any possessions in the Commandments.)
Luke’s Gospel is not the first instance this admittedly harsh instruction is found in the Bible. Jesus’ words appear to mirror the Old Testament words of the prophet Micah 7:5-6:
“Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.”
Jesus knew that these teachings were not easy, and would not be universally accepted. Renouncing our possessions, lessening the importance of family and friends to place God first in all we do is difficult and not in harmony to how most live our lives in this world. We buy insurance for our things (which, as noted, failed to be mentioned on the priority list), call mom and dad once a week (ok, maybe), and wave to our neighbors as we pull in and out of the driveway. And then, when we can, if there’s time, we try our best to get to church and set aside time for prayer. We’re busy.
But Jesus doesn’t want only our spare time. He wants our all. God wants us to make Him our top priority. And, frankly, a difficult teaching to a busy and distracted audience often requires some attention grabbing language. In music they call this discordance, which is when the music strikes a jarringly harsh tone, lacking harmony. Composers use discordance in their compositions to wake the audience up, to capture attention, or to stir emotion.
Micah prophesied that the coming of the Messiah would be a time of discord. Jesus’ teaching is purposefully harsh and meant to stir us and awaken our faith so that we remember to pay attention to His masterpiece. The only true harmony is found in God’s Kingdom, God must be our number one priority, and Jesus has come to show the path to God through himself as the Messiah.
O God, graciously grant that I may do fitting homage to Your Divine Majesty and that I may be faithfully united in mind and heart. May my words, actions, and priorities be in harmony with Your will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen