My dear friends, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. I is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you, and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.
The Lord is my light and my help;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
before whom shall I shrink? (R./)
There is one thing I ask of the Lord,
for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord,
all the days of my life,
to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
to behold his temple. (R./)
I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord! (R./)
Large crowds were going with Jesus on his way 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.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."
While today's gospel sounds rather grim, it is nicely balanced by Saint Paul's optimistic wishes for the Philippians. He illustrates how a vibrant parish community can function, if there's a shared spirit of service and goodwill. He advises them (and us) to be agreeable, to act without grumbling or arguing; and to be honest and open, as one family, ass of them children of God. He openly refers to the prospect of his own death, which may be near. But on the bright side, he feels sure that he will not have run the race in vain or worked to no purpose. And so, quite serenely, he invites them to "be glad too, and rejoice with me."
Jesus' words about "hating" one's father and mother and family express preference rather than actual hatred. The must be understood in light of his broad insistence on the two commandments of love, for God and for neighbour. Who is closer than our family? If there are times, hopefully rare, when we cause grief to others -- such as when parents discipline their children, or a friend corrects another -- even acts like these must be done in love. Like Jesus, we would regret any involuntarily suffering we may cause to another. For love is the ultimate fulfillment of God's will.
The saying about hating father and mother, etc. grates on our ears. But the words are a Semitic idiom expressing preference of one thing over another. If you prefer one thing over another, you are said to love the one and hate the other.
Jesus does not really ask us to hate our families, but to love him more than we love even our families. He is to be the primary love in our lives and our first loyalty is to him. Elsewhere he says our main priority is to love God with all one's soul, strength and mind. However, since He is God-with-us, to love God above all is also to love Jesus above all.
As devotés of Christ, he is our primary allegiance; our bond with him colours all our other relationships. He calls for such loyalty and devotion that potential disciples should reflect, just as a builder must reflect whether he will be able to finish what he intends to build. We pray to be whole-hearted rather than half-hearted in following him.