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February 2009

(This was first published as the Word of Life in October 1978. It was also used in September 1995)

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. (Luke 14:26)

What can we make of this?

These words make tremendous, drastic, unheard-of demands on us!

Yet the same Jesus who declared marriage indissoluble, who commanded us to love everyone and so our parents in particular, now asks us to put all the beautiful affections of the world in second place lest they become an obstacle to our direct, our immediate, love for him. Only God could ask so much.

Jesus pulls people from their natural way of living and wants to bind them first of all to himself, so he can bring about universal fraternity on earth.

So wherever he finds an obstacle to his plan, he 'cuts' and he speaks in the Gospel of a 'sword' - in a spiritual sense.

He describes as 'dead' those who have not known how to love him more than their mother, their spouse, their life. Do you remember the man who asked to go and bury his father before following him? It was to him that Jesus replied: "Let the dead bury their own dead" (Lk 9:60).

Perhaps such a demand makes you feel a moment of fear. Perhaps you would like to relegate these words of Jesus to his own time, or see them as being only for those called to follow him in a special way. That would be a mistake. These words hold true in every age, including our own. They apply to all Christians, including you.

In a world like today's you will have many chances to put this invitation of Christ into practice.

Is someone in your family opposed to Christianity? Jesus wants you to bear witness to him with your life and, when the time is right, with words too, even at the cost of ridicule or slander.

Are you expecting a child and your husband is asking you to terminate the pregnancy? Obey God, and not man.

Does your brother want you to join a group whose aims are suspicious or even wrong? Have nothing to do with it.

Has a relative offered you illegal money? Keep your honesty.

Does your whole family want to get you mixed up in worldly permissiveness? Make a 'cut', so that Christ will not withdraw from you.

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.

Do you come from a family of non-believers, where your conversion to Christ provoked division? Don't worry. This is an effect of the Gospel. Offer to God the heartache you feel for those you love, but don't give up.

Has Christ called you to himself in a particular way, and the moment has now come when the total gift of yourself demands that you leave father and mother or even your fiancée?

Make your choice. There is no victory without a struggle.

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.

 "... and even life itself."

Do you live in a land where there's persecution, where declaring yourself a Christian puts your life in danger? Take courage. At times our faith can ask even this. The age of martyrs is never entirely over for the Church.

Each one of us, in the course of our life, sooner or later will have to choose between Christ and everything else in order to remain a real Christian. So your turn will come too. Don't be afraid. Don't fear for your life. It's better to lose it for God than to lose it for ever. Eternal life is a reality.

Don't be afraid for your family, either. God loves them. One day, if you are able to put them after him in your life, he will come to them and call them with the forceful words of his love. Then you will help them become, with you, true disciples of Christ.

Chiara Lubich


The word 'hate' in this Word of life provokes discussion! Experts agree that the earliest Greek texts use the word 'hate', although the Italian language original of this commentary uses the word pospone which means to 'put behind'. Unfortunately the English word 'postpone' does not accurately convey the sense of the word. A footnote in the Jerusalem Bible describes the use of the word 'hate' as a "Hebraism: an emphatic way of expressing a total detachment".


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