Saturday, September 8, 2007

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C): "Hate Your Family"

Icon of James
"James, the Brother of Jesus"
(Greek : Iάκωβος ο Αδελφόθεος )

The Text: Lk 14:24-33
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

A year ago, the retired supreme court justice Hilario Davide submitted to the President his proposals for the much needed electoral reforms. Among them is the ban on political dynasties and nepotism, a recommendation he had submitted to the 1971 Constitutional Convention and the 1986 Constitutional Commission.

Here's my interpretation of Luke 4:25-33, Jesus' possible teaching against nepotism. The article is published in the 2007 SVD Bible Diary:

Why did Jesus teach his disciples to "hate" their families?

"Family first before country." This could be an attitude indicating a fractured culture. "The Filipino is not community-driven, certainly not nation-driven" as one one writer laments. Worse is nepotism---favoring relatives or personal friends because of relationship than because of their abilities. As Filipinos, we tend to confuse nepotism with pagmamahal sa pamilya (family loyalty). Yet we know for a fact that nepotism breeds graft and corruption and vice versa.

Is it what Jesus up to when he says, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:26)? Early Christian stories recount that James, the brother of Jesus, (Mk 6:3) is elected the bishop of Jerusalem because he is the kamag-anak ("relative") of Jesus. Does this explain that Jesus is, at times, "anti-family?".

We should not think that Jesus teaches disrespect of one's family. The Old Testament says very clearly: "Honor your father and your mother" (Exod 20:12). Loving one's family is loving God, as in the teaching of Jesus, son of Sira: "Those who respect their father will have long life, and those who honor their mother obey the Lord" (Sirach 3:6). Why then does Jesus, the son of Joseph, teach to "hate one's family?"

In recent years, bible scholars suggest four possible insights on this teaching:
(1) Jesus has two types of disciples: those who stay at home and live the gospel in the context of their families and those who are sent out to preach Jesus' message. It is to this second group of disciples that Jesus addresses this teaching to leave behind their families.

(2) To break away from the family in that culture may indicate that Jesus disapproves a family that is patriarchal and dominated by men.

(3) It may also mean that Jesus is forming a surrogate family, a new family of brothers and sisters that has God as the only father.

(4) Having a family is a form of security, leaving home would mean giving up that security to be in solidarity with many people who are homeless and landless, something that the prophets did in the Old Testament.

In the end, Jesus is not against the family. But, he requires his followers to see beyond the confines of their own particular families, a new and bigger "family" with God as the Father (cf. Mt 23:9).

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