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…”
Depressing words, no? Jesus tells us that we have to hate our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters if we want to be His disciples? Doesn’t that violate the whole “Honor your mother and father” thing in the Ten Commandments? Actually, no. What Jesus is employing in this passage is a classic Hebrew idiom. He isn’t literally saying that we have to hate our parents, our spouses, or our children, much less ourselves if we want to follow Him. What He is saying is that if given the choice between our parents and God, we choose God. If we have to decide between our spouse or our children and God, we choose God. We should prefer God to our parents, our spouses, our children, our siblings, and even our very selves.
My spiritual director once referred to this as holy detachment (Batman!). Okay, my spiritual director didn’t say holy detachment, Batman. But when it comes down to it, we should practice holy detachment, that is, the ability to say, “I love x, y, and/or z, but if God called me to give x, y, and/or z up, while I might not rejoice, I’d do it because my love for God is greater.” I love my parents. I love my brother. I love my friends. I love my life. But if God called me to give any of those things up, while I might not love it, I’d do it because I trust that He has a bigger plan. That’s the scary part of surrender, isn’t it? Trusting someone (even God) so much that you lay your greatest hopes and dreams at their feet. Abraham had a holy detachment from Isaac. That isn’t, of course, to say that Abraham didn’t love Isaac, because we know that he did. However, when God called upon Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham trusted that God had a plan and he chose to prefer God to everything else, even his long awaited son, Isaac.
In some instances this choice is easy. I prefer time in adoration in Mass to time spent in line at the DMV. I prefer the sweet, eternal joy of the Eucharist over ice cream (and I really, really enjoy ice cream, for the record). But in some instances, this choice is not so easy. I love my parents. I love my fiancé. Those are people (in the present and in the future) that I love more than words can possibly express. If it came to a point where, for whatever reason, I had to give them up, the choice is undeniably harder. I love my parents who I can see, who can hold me and let me cry after a bad day. I’ll love my husband, who will choose me over all of the other girls in the world, who will love me in a very tangible way, and who will love me more deeply than perhaps all others. I love God too, but in a different way. God doesn’t physically hold me as I sob, He doesn’t literally jump up and down with me when something wonderful happens. Rather, He loves me beyond the physical and into the eternal. But if the time comes, I pray that I can make the choice to take up my cross and be His disciple, even if that means forsaking others. The greater choice isn’t always the easier choice, but if it didn’t involve sacrifice, the joy of the reward wouldn’t mean nearly as much.