instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I gotta hate all men

Ad Limina Apostolorum has an Augustinian reflection on the verse:
If anyone comes to Me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own self, he cannot be My disciple.
[Important note: If, while visiting Jamie's blog, you feel yourself drawn against your will to stare at the picture of the Cabbage Patch doll, and to obey its commands, close your browser as quickly as possible and pray this.]

I wonder how many homilies this Sunday will offer the assurance that "hate" here doesn't mean "hate," it means "love less."

Jamie point out, though, that the word St. Luke uses for "hate" here is the same he uses later, when Jesus says, "All men will hate you because of me." You "love less" someone who roots for the wrong team; you "hate" someone who represents what you are mortally opposed to.

"If anyone does not hate his own self, he cannot be My disciple." This is a hard saying. We should expect it to be hard, even insist that it not be softened. Now, actually hating your own self may not be hard; the difficulty a person has doing this depends on the temperament he has and the graces he is given.

But if the demands placed on a Christian are not demanding, then Christianity would just happen and the ideals St. Paul preached would be realized.

I used to wonder about Jesus' saying:
No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.
I got the part about divided loyalties, but... hating the one? Despising the other? Isn't that a bit extreme? Can't you just prefer the one and make duplicitous excuses to the other?

Now, though, I think Jesus might have been right after all. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as "loving less." If you love two things, you can love neither. (Here I mean loving something for its own sake.)

In particular, you can't love both God and yourself (or your family, or anything else) -- and here I have to add, in the same way. Obviously, you have to love both God and yourself to be a good Christian. But love for God is to be with all your heart. Your heart is what you love with. There shouldn't be any part of you left with which you can love anything other than God. The way you love your neighbor, as yourself, is by loving him through your love of God.

Love cannot be partitioned. You can't say, "This part of my love is for God, that part for my parents, this other part for my children."

Well, you can say that, and I'd guess most of us do. But when we do, what we call "love" is not the love Christ calls us to. The "part of my love" with which I love God is certainly not the love of God that is the first and greatest commandment.

That, I think, is why Jesus says we must hate our own selves to be His disciple. As humans, we are capable of loving. As fallen humans, we misuse our capability of loving by trying to love things other than, or in addition to, God. We can only restore the integrity of our capacity to love by an act of the will, by choosing not to use what should love only God to love things other than God. By, to get technical, hating what is not God.