Greetings, SBT Readers!
This is a "light" version of SBT as I'm in the middle of moving, yet again! Having just moved to my Chicago townhouse a year ago, this is not something I anticipated -- the thought of having to re-locate 50+ boxes of books, my photography equipment, artefacts and technology would never, ever have crossed my mind. In fact, having moved 14 times in 28 years, I fully expected to stay in my new home for at least 5 years. Then came a new possibility -- at first, something whimsical, and then a more serious quest as my daughter and I began talking about purchasing a home together for an experience of intergenerational living. We discussed global, national and local options, finally deciding to stay close to Chicago.
You will find my new address at the end of this issue!
Link to the Sunday Readings
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If you come to me without hating your
father and mother, wife and children,
brothers and sisters, and even your own life,
you cannot be my disciple. Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple."
Jesus, of course, is speaking in hyperboles. The word "hate" is strong, completely antithetical to his message of love. It involves hardening one's heart -- sometimes locking others out, sometimes wishing them misfortune, and sometimes desiring revenge. One can establish healthy boundaries without hating other people; for one's own safety, it may even be essential to cut ties with certain individuals, even those related to us-- but we would still do well to avoid hatred. Hatred, you see, harms us as well as those to whom we feel animosity. When we cling to hatred, something shrivels inside ourselves -- our capacity to love, in fact. Hatred also eats at us, destroying our health and happiness, our ability to relate to others. When we hate, we discover that we have changed into something we loathe -- a hateful, hate-filled human being. And hate is contagious. When we harbor hatred, we carry a cloud of darkness wherever we go, clutching it as we head into every gathering, infecting all those around us, spoiling every event. Hatred is more lethal than Covid.
If we think of his mandate to love our enemies, then it seems even more unlikely that Jesus would literally want us to "hate" those closest to us. Rather, it would seem that he is using a rhetorical device to "wake up" his audience so that they can reflect on their values and priorities. What I believe he is saying is that discipleship involves putting God first -- before pleasing our friends, relatives and others in our lives. Sometimes, to keep the peace within a relationship, one party will go along with the other in every situation, no matter what is being asked of them. Similarly, for fear of losing friendships, people sometimes follow "the crowd," doing as they "do" even if this means going against what is right. At such times, pleasing others becomes more important than pleasing God; in effect, we have given divine status to another human, offering that person our allegiance instead of God. This is precisely what Jesus is cautioning us to avoid: we must be sufficiently detached from our personal and professional relationships that we can SEE what is right and act accordingly.
And this is where carrying one's cross comes in. To stand in opposition to the wishes of those we love is bound to cause friction, even separation; to refuse to act unethically in the work place can lead to being fired. Ultimately, however, we are answerable to God. What we must hate is all that can separate us from God's Spirit, not those individuals who may pressure us to place them first, instead of God.
* Have you ever hated another person? If so, what did "hatred" do to you, physically, spiritually and emotionally?
* What is it like to go against the wishes of another person or group because what they are asking of you is not aligned with your beliefs and values?
* Have you ever had to choose between pleasing God and pleasing someone close to you?
What price did you pay?
Try my Spiritual Self-Assessment Tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated analysis of your strengths and "growing edges." https://assess.coach/eastewart/
Please note that I offer
Writing Coaching/ Editing, Life Coaching, Spiritual Direction, and Retreats.