A Spiritual Conundrum

You have one. I have one too. If not forced then chosen. Some deny them as though that works. Some move far away from them as though that works. Some even pretend to have any of them as though that works.

Jesus tells us to hate them in order to freely commit ourselves to him. I don’t know what to make of that distinction. Jesus says, “Hate” and the Church says that it’s “church in miniature,“ in other words family is the first Body of Christ until we become more involved in the larger Body of Christ. Such a strong word from an otherwise loving, forgiving Son of God. I checked other translations against ours and they all use the same word, “hate.” Twenty-nine of them. We were taught that you first discover Jesus through and within that first battlefield, “family.” So, I apologize to Jesus today.

Oh well, here’s the “nearest and dearest” of mine.

I’m the fourth of five. My dad studied at St. Francis Seminary in 1924 to become a priest. Happily for me, he quit. My oldest sister was a Sister for fourteen years. She was called a “TO,” in those days meaning teacher/organist so she was needed everywhere. My brother was a Christian Brother for a short time but fell in love with the girl from the next door college. The sister next in line was a Sister for an even shorter time, married a Lutheran pastor, divorced and became a Unitarian pastor for twenty-five years. I’m next, (“the good son”), followed by my youngest sister who never had her one kid baptized (he’s 24 years old!) and practices no formal religion. (I was tempted many times for a quick swish of water over the kid’s head but decided family harmony was more important.)

That’s my thought in contrast to my conundrum with Jesus’ order of hate. You can imagine our family dinners when religion came up. (Oh, I forgot to tell you, my mother wanted to be a nun.) Dessert couldn’t come quick enough during those occasions. “Oh, look at the time! I have to get up early tomorrow.”

Reflecting back on those days, those cantankerous situations were all about who’s right and wrong about religion. No spirituality. As a youngster and taught by my parents, when playing with my Lutheran friends, I thought to myself, “How sad I’ll see never them in Heaven.” I learned later they were thinking the same thing about me. There was disagreement and discord but not to the Jesus degree of “hate.”

As we grew older, family times evolved (a carefully chosen word, by the way) to spiritual matters and the issues of the day. I learned how my siblings addressed each of them in their own way. Our Catholic prayer during Mass says we are a, “pilgrim church.” This means it is not only a pilgrimage toward heaven but one lived during this life as well. And about your family, they are the oldest-knowing people in the whole world who know you.

Only four of us had dinner this past Labor Day. There was laughter, U.S. political briefings, and personal stories for updates. Our young conversations was talk about “booze and babes.” Now, the conversation is “bowels and bladder.” You can’t beat it. I could see the spirituality in their eyes and feel the religion, however practiced, in their hearts. They are not completely of my religion but this is the family that began me. I apologize to Jesus that “hate” did not come up during our Labor Day party. (But there’s still hope for that at Thanksgiving.) I hope my family story can strengthen and nourish yours. It’s the one and only family that began you. (Is that the right verb? Works for me.)

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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