Sunday of Lent
Mary Parish, Pylesville 8:00 am
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am
I struggle with two things in today’s gospel. Actually, it is two words.
1st Struggle: “Hate”
My first struggle is with the word “hate.”
Jesus says, “Whoever hates their life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Well, I don’t hate my life; in fact, I like it.
I really enjoy good food, things like pasta and crab cakes. I enjoy reading mystery novels and theology books and I like to watch movies.
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. And they are just some of the things that I really like about my life.
1st Resolution: Priority
So, what does Jesus mean when he talks about “hating our life in this world”?
Scripture scholars tell us that he is talking about our priorities and choices. Jesus wants us to make him and his values a priority.
This means that we choose to follow the way of the gospel instead of other ways. For example, a child would take up for a classmate who is being bullied.
A teenager or young adult would refuse to experiment with drugs and might even choose other friends to hang out with. We adults would be faithful to our life commitments – to marriage and family, or for me, to priesthood.
So “hating our life in this world” means that we make Jesus and his values our priority. It means that we do this even when it is difficult and even when it goes against what others are doing.
2nd Struggle: “World”
Now I also struggle with the word “world.”
Jesus seems to speak negatively about the “world.” He talks about “the judgment of the world” and “the ruler of the world” being driven out.”
I struggle with this because God made the world. The Book of Genesis says that God looked at what he had made and saw that it was very good.
I find so much of creation beautiful and I find a lot of goodness in the world. And yet, this gospel seems to see the world as bad.
2nd Resolution: The Way
So again, what does Jesus really mean here?
Scripture scholars interpret this in context – and that’s really important for understanding the Scripture correctly – the context. The idea is that Jesus is not saying that the world itself is evil.
Instead, the word world, as Jesus uses it, means life not lived according to the way of the gospel – life not lived according to the way of the gospel. In other words, not “hating” our lives.
So this would mean the child at school goes along with bullying a classmate or a teen tries drugs or we adults waver on our commitments when the grass looks greener on the other side or when the going gets tough. The word world means choosing something other than the way of the gospel.
Jesus wants us to realize that the world, again, as he uses the word, that the world can be in all of us. And it is from this that we need fuller conversion.
This takes me to one final thought that kind of wraps all of this together.
Jesus says today: “When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself.” Here “lifted up” means Jesus being “lifted up” on the cross.
He says that this will draw “everyone” to himself. This will happen because his being “lifted up” shows us God’s unlimited love for us.
This is also what the word “glorified” means. Jesus says: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Being “glorified” means making God present. And this happens in the great demonstration of God’s love when Jesus is “lifted up” on the cross.
This love is so powerful that it moves us to repent of the elements of the world that are within us. It moves us to hate our lives, in the Scriptural understanding of that word, and to make Jesus and his way our priority.