Whoever does not hate father and mother cannot be my disciple
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Doug McManaman
Homily delivered at CAMH (Queen Street), Toronto, Ontario.
Reproduced with Permission

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Of course Jesus does not mean that we must literally despise our parents and hate them. What he means is that he must be first. He must be loved above all things and before all things, and whatever we love, we must love it for his sake only.

Saint Augustine wrote that Tiberius Caesar wanted the Roman senate to enroll Jesus Christ among their gods; but the senate refused to do so, on the ground that he was too proud a God, and wanted to be worshiped all by himself without any companions.

Isn’t that an amazing thought? Things have not changed. St. Alphonsus Liguori comments on this: “That is quite true: God wants us to adore and love him exclusively.” Not inclusively, but exclusively. Jesus will not tolerate being one teacher among many, one prophet among many, one god among many others. He demands total, undivided devotion, love, and worship. But he wants us to adore and love him exclusively, not out of pride, but first and foremost because he deserves it—religion is a virtue that is part of the virtue of justice, and justice demands that we render to God all that is due to Him. And since we have a debt to Christ that we can never repay--for he saved us from eternal damnation by the shedding of his blood--, we owe Him worship that is total and knows no bounds and no rivals.

But, St. Alphonsus continues, Christ also wants us to adore and love him exclusively because of the love he bears us. Since he himself loves us so much, he wants all our love; and so he is jealous of anyone else’s sharing the hearts that he wants all for himself.

These are remarkable truths. Christ stands before you and he sees something you and I do not see. He sees you as he intended you to be through all eternity, and he loves you so much more than you love yourself. He desires to unite himself to you, to give you himself completely and totally. But he wants you to give yourself completely and entirely to him, because he loves you like a bridegroom loves his bride.

He wants to be loved by you; that is how important you are to him. And so he wants you and me to divest ourselves of all disordered affections so that he can have you all to himself, and can give himself completely to you, because he knows that when you possess him, when you see his face in heaven, you will be perfectly and unimaginably happy.

But if we divide our love between him and something else, we will receive less of him, and we will be less happy, and he wants us to be perfectly happy.

Think about that. Christ wants to be loved by you completely and totally, that’s how much you matter to him. He wants you all to himself.