In the Gospel Reading, Jesus recommends hatred—of your mother and father, of your wife (or husband), in fact, of your very life.
What’s to hate about these people? How can Jesus say that unless you hate them, you can’t be his disciple? Didn’t he command us to love our neighbors as ourselves? How can you hate your life if you love yourself?
Well, think of St. Thomas More. Henry VIII of England wanted his marriage to his wife annulled so that he could marry another woman Anne. (Anglicans and Catholics both have troublesome characters in their history!) When the Pope wouldn’t agree to what Henry wanted, Henry declared himself supreme head of the Church in England. More was Chancellor of England then, and Henry wanted More to support him in all this. Henry wanted More to sign the Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry the Supreme Head of the Church in England.
More saw that Henry’s passion for Anne was moving Henry to betray his wife and bring scandal on the Church. And More wouldn’t support him. He wouldn’t sign the Oath.
Couldn’t More have just signed that Oath? His wife would have had him home. His children would have rejoiced at his return. He would have kept his property. He would have kept his life.
But he would have lost his life in keeping it. He would have betrayed the Lord he loved if he had signed that Oath.
So More lost all his possessions. He left his wife and children behind and went to prison. And finally he went to his death, for love of the Lord. This is the kind of hatred of life and loved ones that the Lord is talking about. More loved his family and his life, but he let go of everything for love of Christ.
Because he maintained his integrity and did not let Henry push him into evil, More was true to the Lord he loved and to himself. He could not have loved himself or his wife or his children or his neighbors better than he did.