“Unless you leave your father and mother, sisters and brothers, and your very self, you are not worthy of me.” -Luke 14:26
That is one of those Jesus’ saying that is really hard to get to the bottom. Some translations have it as “…hate your father and mother, sisters and brothers…” Is Christ telling you to hate you parents and family? The Catholic devotional magazine, Magnificant, which I love and think any Catholic should have, has a meditation of the day, and earlier this month they had a passage from St. Catherine of Siena—the patron saint of this blog—explaining it. Apparently it came from one of her letters, but the passage is not identified, so I don’t know which letter.
I long to see you making your home in the cell of self-knowledge, so that you may attain perfect love, for I know we cannot please our Creator unless we love him, because he is love and wants nothing but love. If we do not know ourselves we find this love. Why? Because we see our own nothingness, that our very existence is ours by grace and not because we have a right to it, and every grace beyond our existence as well—it is all given to us with boundless love. Then we discover so much of God’s goodness poured out on us that words cannot describe it. And once we see ourselves we so loved by God, we cannot help loving him. And within ourselves we love God and our own rationality, and hate sensuality that would take inordinate pleasure in the world.
Some people delight in wealth or status, or would rather please creatures than the Creator. These build their foundation in worldly appearance, pleasure, and enjoyment. Then there are some who love their children or spouse or mother or father excessively, with too sensual a love. Such love gets between their soul and god and keeps them from a clear knowledge of the truth of real heavenly love. This is why gentle First Truth said, Unless you leave your father and mother, sisters and brothers, and your very self, you are not worthy of me. God’s true servants have always been conscious of this, and quickly strip their heart, soul, and affection of the world and its pleasures and ostentation, and of loving anyone apart from God. Not that they don’t love other people, but they love them only for God’s sake, as creatures boundlessly loved by their Creator.
-St. Catherine of Siena
I am always amazed at that little lady. For a woman with no formal education, she was quite a thinker and writer. There is a lot there, including the concept of “the cell of self-knowledge,” by which Catherine means that one reaches the truth by going into the self and understanding that we are not and God is. It’s a rather mystical (perhaps even Buddhist-esk notion) but from there one can then understand what Jesus is fully saying. You have to lose your self—your will—to find Christ, and what is more integrated with the self than your family. Ponder, then, Christ’s first Beatitude: “Blessed those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:3) What does it mean “to be poor in spirit”?