Biblical Reflection by Fr Randy Flores SVD on Luke 14, 25-33, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time
“Family first before country.” This is one of the cracks in our culture. “The Filipino is not community-driven, certainly not nation-driven” as one writer laments. Worse is nepotism–favoring relatives because of their blood relations more than their abilities. As filipinos, we tend to confuse nepotism with pagmamahal sa pamilya (family loyalty). Yer we know for a fact that nepotism breeds graft and corruption and vice versa.
It is what Jesus up to when he says, “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” (Lk 14, 26)? Early Christian stories recounts that James, the brother of Jesus, (Mk 6,3) is elected bishop of Jerusalem because he is the kamag-anak (relative) of Jesus. Does this explain that Jesus is, at times, anti-family?
We should not think that Jesus teaches disrespect to one’s family. The Old Testament says very clearly: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exo 20,12). Loving one’s family is loving God, as in the teaching of Jesus, son of Sira: “Those who respect their father will have long life, and those who honor their mother obey the Lord” (Sirach3,6). Why then does Jesus, the son of Joseph, teach to “hate” one’s family?
In recent years, bible specialists suggest four possible insights on this teaching: (1) Jesus has two types of disciples: those who stay at home and live the gospel in the context of their families and those who are sent out to preach Jesus’ message. It is to this second group of disciples that Jesus addresses this teaching to leave behind their families. (2) To break away from the family in that culture may indicate Jesus’ disapproval of families that is patriarchal and dominated by men. (3) It may also mean that Jesus is forming a surrogate family, a new family of brothers and sisters that has God as the only Father. (4) Having a family is a form of security, leaving home would mean giving up that security to be in solidarity with many people who are homeless and landless, something that the prophets did in the Old Testament.
In the end, Jesus is not against the family. But he requires his followers to see beyond the confines of their own particular families, a new and bigger “family” which has God as the Father.