Jesus is always telling us to love God and love our neighbor. Then why does He tell us to hate father and mother and our families? Is not this a contradiction?
I have heard many scholars tell us that in the Semitic languages that the way they understood the word hate is not the way we understand the word hate. To us hate means to dislike intensely or passionately. In Jewish culture it probably meant to dislike, not so emotionally.
Still, it does make us focus on that word hate. And it is a challenge. And it is in our gospel, so we need to focus on this saying and what we understand in our hearts.
In the first reading we are told who can know God’s counsel. And we do know that we can never know everything about God.
Maybe we cannot know today’s gospel directly, but I think we can learn an example from one of our saints. The saint I am thinking of is Thomas Becket. He lived in the eleventh century. He was archbishop in England. The king of England then was King Henry the second.
The king was slowly trying to take away power and authority from the Church. For several years Henry had been documenting different decrees that threatened the Church’s authority. Many of the other bishops were being deceived and were signing these documents not understanding how Henry was seeking to eliminate the Church.
The other bishops also understood if they did not sign, they would be exiled or worse, killed. Thomas Becket was the only one who had not signed. He was offered a high position in the kingdom, great wealth, and many other worldly items. Even his family begged him to sign the king’s decree. Thomas Becket made a decision that placed God first, above his family. Even though he loved his family, he loved God and realized God must come first. He did not sign. He was martyred. This helps us to understand God comes first.
When we have God first in our lives, we can understand the story of Onesimus. He was a slave that had run away. If caught he would be killed. Onesimus’ master is Philemon. Philemon is a friend of Paul’s. Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon with the request that Philemon accept Onesimus as a friend, not as a slave.
We all belong to God. We are all God’s children. Paul does not know if Philemon will accept Onesimus back except Paul does know his friend to be a Christian and will do God’s Will. We never hear the end of the story, but I believe Onesimus was received by Philemon as an equal, a friend, a believer in God.
Maybe we cannot always understand God, but we know we can trust Him with everything we have and offer Him our very selves.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen