A quick unthinking read of our Gospel this weekend might tempt us to think that Jesus is promoting family discord. No ! it is not an attempt by Jesus to set people against each other. His hope was always to draw all people into the Kingdom. That outcome, however, required, and still does require, conversion. Not all would accept Jesus’ invitation to change; some, indeed, would oppose it. In Jesus’ mind, the Kingdom imperative overrode even family ties.
His insistence was in line with his own Jewish Tradition.
For instance, we read in the Prophet Micah (7:6)
“Those who love father or mother more than me
are not worthy of me;
and those who love son or daughter more than me
are not worthy of me.”
Jesus continued to clarify this same point: the Kingdom takes priority over family loyalties. In fact, an attitude that loves father or mother (or son or daughter) more than Jesus may not necessarily be love, but, rather, more a fear of hurting them (or of being hurt by them).
Let us remember the word love does not only refer to emotional intimacy, but also to preferential choice. Real love can allow hurt to happen, for the sake of some greater good. It is the kind of love often referred to as “tough love”. In fact, there is never reason to stop truly loving others, even though, sometimes, those others may interpret the “tough” behaviour as a denial of love.