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Archive for September 9th, 2019

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Does Jesus Really Ask Us to Hate?

What kind of fanatic would demand that his followers hate father and mother, brother and sister?  What leader would command disciples to leave all and risk life and limb just to be in his service?  What sort of egomaniac would demand that he be the pivotal figure in the lives of everyone?  Jesus is that person.

Of course it was this same Jesus who submitted to the will of his parents in Nazareth.  It was he who stepped into the limelight at Cana when his mother pushed him into it.  And he’s also the guy who washed the feet of his disciples, as if he were some sort of common slave.

Jesus at times could be a real enigma, and my heart goes out to the disciples when they had to pull him aside to explain himself.  What did he really want out of them?  It was a fair question, because on more than one occasion the signals from Jesus were mixed.  It’s why we still ask those questions today.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s puzzled over what Jesus meant about hating parents and relatives.  Does he really demand all that?  If so, I stand convicted of egregious sin.  I do love my family.  I’m also fond of my confreres in the monastery and of my friends and colleagues outside of it.  As for strangers, however, I find them a lot tougher to love.

7E948BE1-70EE-45D6-B119-9E2C638D61DCContext for all this is to be found in the two great commandments, which Jesus affirmed publicly on more than one occasion.  All the same, his insistence did not make love of God and neighbor any easier then or now.  It was tough in the time of Jesus, and  still a big stretch today.  I’m not the first to point out that it’s far easier to love family or village or tribe.  But when it comes to the stranger and the orphan and the homeless, that’s a different story.  No wonder that Jesus has to shake us up with language that rattles our complacency.

The last verses in Luke 14 offer one further bit of insight into what Jesus expects.  There he cites a king who is about to go to war and a group intent on building a tower.  If they rush in headlong and unprepared they risk serious failure.  If other projects distract them along the way, success can slip through their fingers.  In both  cases the recipe for success includes self-awareness, concentration and a commitment to see things through to the end.  Anything short of that might lead to failure, if not ridicule.

The truth of the matter is that it’s natural to love father and mother, brother and sister.  Far more difficult is it to extend ourselves in love to the stranger, the orphan, the poor and the suffering.  And yet are they not also people created in the image of God?  Are they not worthy of love from somebody?  And on any given day could that somebody be me?  Jesus would argue “yes!”  That’s why we have to be deliberate about it, day in and day out.

9F54F9CC-2041-4553-9512-E0B2C2FE6074NOTES

+On September 2nd we monks celebrated Labor Day with a cookout in the back garden of the monastery.  Despite plenty of rain this summer, we had fairly good luck with cookouts.  Few got washed out, and I credit Prior Brad for his steely determination to go through with them despite the occasional threat of rain.  It paid off this year, and all were delightful occasions.

+The highlight of my week was a lunch in St. Paul that I had with one of my colleagues and Mr. Larry McGough.  The occasion was Larry’s 90th birthday, which he celebrated a few days earlier.  We at Saint John’s have had a long relationship with Larry and McGough Construction, since it was his family firm that built the abbey church.  At the time it was the firm’s first truly monumental project, and the success of that undertaking was a turning point in the development and growth of the company.  Larry estimates that he has now given well over 200 talks on the building of the abbey church, and audiences have included other architectural and construction firms as well as people simply fascinated by the abbey church.

+Today’s post is a reflection on Luke 14:  25-33.  It was the gospel for Sunday September 8th.

+For those who think that medieval art was exclusively about pious subjects, I include the four pieces of stained glass in today’s post.  All are from a 15th century church and are now housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.  Medieval illuminators, fresco painters and glass makers delighted in depicting the months, the seasons and the signs of the zodiac, and they appear in surprising numbers.  At top is July, followed by August, September, and October at bottom.

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