Christian 'Hatred' by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them "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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."
Are Christians allowed to hate? We know that our Lord commands us to love one another, and that we will be known by such love (cf. Jn 13:34-35). But consider how hateful St. Thomas Aquinas must have looked when he defied his parents and ran off to join the Dominicans. Beautiful St. Clare probable appeared ugly and cruel when she dashed her parents' hopes for her marriage and snuck off to follow St. Francis in poverty. And he himself, the "Little Poor Man" of Assisi, certainly seemed callous and unkind when he publicly renounced his father and inheritance. So if Christians are to love, how do we understand such seeming cruelty?
These saints, however hateful they may have appeared, were motivated by a love far deeper than that of those around them. It was not a lack of love, but an unwillingness to dilute that love that prompted their actions. They refused to put their love for God lower than, or even on equal footing with, their love for family or worldly comfort. They preferred nothing to the love of Christ. And for this it appeared as though they hated, and indeed they must have been made to feel as if they did. Their radical example provides the way to understand some of our Lord's most shocking words: "If anyone come to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:26).
Obviously, our Lord speaks figuratively here. A Christian may never deliberately hate someone. But when we choose to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, we will inevitably appear cruel and hateful to some. Our desire to love Him above all else puts us on a crash course with those who tempt us to divide our loyalty or compromise our devotion. They will (intentionally or not) make us feel as if we are being hateful toward our parents, spouses, siblings, children - even our very selves. Therefore, our Lord means that to follow Him we must be willing to appear hateful. In a word, we must prefer to endure division - even in our own families - than to divide our love for God.
And indeed our Lord's words have been fulfilled. Christians have been accused of hatred many times. The ancient world considered them "haters of humanity" because they refused to participate in pagan worship. Our culture levies the same accusation against us: that we hate. When the Church teaches strongly against abortion, the world spins it as hatred for women. When the Church proclaims the truth about marriage, the world accuses her of hating homosexuals. And so on. Further, each member of the Church encounters this as well. Increasingly, Catholics may be accused of hatred and be made to feel hateful by members of their own families, when out of fidelity to Christ they will not approve certain immoralities (divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, the homosexual lifestyle, etc.).
We should not think that Sts. Thomas, Clare and Francis easily and joyfully broke with their families. Doubtless, they did so with great sadness. For even when we understand our Lord's words properly, they should not sit easily in our hearts. Woe to us if we do find them easy. One writer imagines that when the apostles heard these words they were all stunned and scandalized - except Judas. He found no difficulty in them. He was more than ready to hate. His kind of heart can only distort our Lord's words. The only heart that gives them the proper reception is the one that loves family, friends and life itself - but loves God more than all these and is saddened that anyone would compete for His place.
In the end, the ancient world that accused Christians of hating humanity became Christian itself. Its conversion was due to the witness of love. "See how these Christians love one another," they would say. The world that began with accusations of Christian "hatred" ended with admiration of Christian love. So there is hope for us as well - both as the Church and members thereof - that our love will someday be made manifest even to those who accuse us of hate.
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