Once when I was walking around my Residence halls to my surprise I found a group of students playing what they called “Bible Roulette” It must have been a slow night.
They would think of a problem and then randomly open the bible and point at a phrase to see if it applied.
To their surprise many of their random selections seemed to answer their question.
But I cautioned them that it would be better if they simply read the whole book and not random passages by chance.
Everyone knows that you can’t read one sentence randomly out of context and understand the message of a whole book.
The same thought came to mind this week as I read today’s Gospel because it never really sits well with me.
How could Jesus who calls us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us,
How could Jesus who calls us to honor our Father and Mother,
How could Jesus who honored and loved his parents with all his heart,
in another breath seemingly command us to hate them.
Remember we have to read the whole book and understand the context and culture in which it is written to understand its message.
The scholars tell us that in this passage Jesus was using an idiomatic phrase and hyperbole to make his point.
Just like a grandma saying to her Grandson eat your supper or I will never buy you ice cream again.
Here is another example:
If in 2000 years someone finds a copy of the Hartford Currant, (God forbid) and on the first page reads that a gunman kills two in bank robbery,
then on the sports page they read, Berlin High School kills defending state champion Xavier HS in season opener,
and when they go to financial page they read Fr. Robert made a killing on the stock market this year.
From the literal meaning of the words without the cultural context in which they were written, They would think that there were murders all over the place
But from the context we would all understand that sadly on the first page there was indeed the tragic loss of life,
the sports page simply reporting that BHS beat Xavier and beat them well in football,
and on the financial page, Fr. Robert made a lot of money on the stock market.
To understand the meaning you have understand the context of the words and the meaning they express
The word Jesus used did not mean to literally hate with anger but rather to prefer or choose.
What Jesus is saying is that Christian discipleship asks that we put God and God’s plan first in our lives no matter what.
And that’s what this whole Gospel is about.
Jesus wants us all to know that should we chose to follow Him it may very well cost us, and cost us dearly.
One need only to look over to the Middle East now to see how much discipleship is costing Christians, in Palestine, and Egypt, and Syria, most have been forced to flee Iraq.
The Gospel is also reminding us that to be the best Husband or Wife
to be the best Mom or Dad
to be the best priest.
We have to be the best disciples first.
The best possible way for me to serve you is not attend tons of meetings though it seems I do, but rather to be a holy priest,
If you want to be a great Dad and a great Mom for your children or a great husband and wife for your spouse, be a holy disciple first and you will be a great parent and a great spouse.
The Scriptures and the history of our church is full of examples of people who paid the price of our faith.
Sometimes Televangelists tell people that discipleship is easy and if you are a good disciple Jesus will make you rich.
Nothing could be farther from the truth
Being a Disciple means carrying your cross
As one commentary put it, bearing your cross means voluntarily exposing ourselves to ridicule and sacrifice in order to follow Jesus.
When we chose to follow Christ we will always carry the cross like he did.
We can never say that we didn’t know or understand the true cost of discipleship.
All we have to do is follow in his footsteps to Calvary.
Are we as a Church, as a parish and as individuals willing to pay the cost of discipleship and follow our Lord?
Our world, our country, our families desperately need us to say yes!