Veronica Lawson RSM
We all want to be faithful to the commitments we make and most of us realise that the choice for one pathway will preclude another. We work out our priorities and live with the consequences, leaving aside whatever might get in the way of our realising our goals. Sometimes we take on commitments and fail to meet their demands. If we rely only on ourselves, things can become too difficult and we simply give up the struggle. Today’s gospel reading invites us to consider the radical demands of Christian commitment.
Luke tells us that Jesus attracts a huge following on the long journey from Galilee through Samaritan territory and on to Jerusalem. On the journey, he teaches relentlessly about the ways of God. By the time he faces death in the city, the crowds have thinned considerably. Is this because it is all too hard to follow through on their initial impulse to follow the way of the gospel and the one who embodies its values?
In the context of the Roman Empire, criminals who were sentenced to die by crucifixion carried the cross beam on which they would hang to the place of execution. Implicit, therefore, in the teaching about carrying one’s cross is a reminder of the intense pain and sacrifice involved in living the way of the gospel, in being a disciple. It sometimes means going against what other family members might want. It may even involve putting one’s life on the line for the sake of others. The cross image is shocking for anyone. It is quite alienating for the faint-hearted.
The term ‘hate’ (misein) seems harsh. The English translation fails to do justice, however, to the original Greek or the Hebrew that underlies this biblical notion. To ‘hate’ in biblical terms is to ‘leave aside’. Disciples are expected to love one another. There are times, however, when they have to ‘leave aside’ the wishes of those they love most for the sake of a gospel call to justice and right relationship. There is also a call to ‘leave aside’ unnecessary possessions. In a time of planetary pollution and of growing division between the privileged and the poor, the teaching of the Lukan Jesus has a particular resonance.
There is no place for self-indulgence or exploitation of others or of the goods of the earth in a gospel way of life.