“Now large crowds were travelling with Him; and He turned and said to them, '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. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. This is the Gospel from Luke Chapter 14 Verse 25 onwards.”
Father Ignatius waited until the congregation sat down and then he said, “Now the young children will go to the sacristy with their teachers for Sunday School.”
After the youngsters left he continued, “Today’s Gospel must be very confusing for young children. It talks about hating parents, spouses and the whole family. It also mentions people having to carry a cross daily.
“What is all that about?
“A member of this congregation told me that after hearing this reading at this morning’s Mass as he got home he picked up his wife over the threshold as newly married people do.
“His wife was surprised. He said, ‘didn’t you hear the priest today? He said pick up your cross!’ ”
The congregation laughed in unison. He waited a moment and continued.
“God is love. He created us out of love. He commanded that we love one another, even our enemies. The fifth commandment tells us to honour our parents. Yet here Jesus is talking about hate.
“In Matthew Chapter 11 Verse 28 onwards Jesus says, 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'
“Yet here He is telling us to pick up a cross in order to be His disciple. We all know what the Cross means. It was the cruellest way of execution devised by the Romans. Is that what Christ is asking of us?”
Father Ignatius stopped a while as he normally does to let the message sink in. He went on.
“These contradictions seem confusing to grown-ups not only to children.
“I do not think Jesus is literally asking us to hate our parents and relatives. He often exaggerated the point a little for the benefit of his audience at the time in order to make them understand His point. They certainly knew what the cross meant!
“Jesus here is teaching about commitment. Following Him is not just a fad. A temporary craze or whim just to be trendy. Being a follower of Jesus is a decision which we should make in the light of day, with a clear head, and in the full knowledge of what we are doing. It is a permanent commitment full of responsibilities, difficulties and often obstacles in our way.
“Christ never said that following Him would be easy. We will at times find life difficult. Often others may at the very least be curious about us, and perhaps even mock us. Our decision to follow Christ may well divide families who may not agree with our choices and way of life. In some countries our decisions to be Christians may well lead to persecution, suffering and even death.
“That is what Jesus meant by hating our families and picking up our cross.
“He meant, be careful about the decision you make before following Me. And once you make it, do not look back.
“In Luke Chapter 9 Verse 62 Jesus declared, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plough and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
“That’s what today’s Gospel means. Decide to follow Christ and keep at it despite all adversities.Being His follower is a permanent lifestyle commitment.
“As our teacher priest told us when I was a novice in seminary ‘Being a priest is not an easy job. It is full of difficulties and pitfalls. It does not pay well. But the pension scheme is out of this world!' ”