He Meant What He Said!

The following snippets of conversation might have been overheard anywhere in Canada. An adoring mother says to her infant: "I love you so much I could eat you up!" One shopper to another: "I just saw a dining room set to die for!" One diner to another: " The dessert was divine, truly awesome!"

Two thousand years from now, a translator faces the task of translating these statements into the vernacular of the day and place. His translation is literal because, for whatever reason, he does not want to interpret but simply to repeat. Among his reader's reactions are the following questions: " I wonder how many infants were consumed by hungry mothers in those days?" "What was the point of giving one's life for a dining room set that you would never enjoy?" "Were certain desserts used in their liturgies?"

Generally speaking, literal translations of ancient utterances can be very misguiding but, on the other hand, if each generation of translators gave their own interpretation, it would soon be impossible to determine what was originally said.

The Church, in its vernacular translations of Sacred Scripture, relies upon very early manuscripts and tends to present us with literal translations which are accompanied by explanatory notes prepared by experts whose lives are dedicated to the study of ancient languages and their various devices, characteristics and nuances.

In Jesus' time, as well as in our own, it was common to underline an important point by using a device which we call "hyperbole." Hyperbole is an extravagant exaggeration of statement. We recognize it easily enough in contemporary language but tend to get hung up on ancient, less frivolous, exaggerations.

A good example of this device was incorporated into the Gospel read at Mass a few weeks ago. Jesus is quoted as saying, in part: "Unless you HATE your mother and Father you cannot be my disciple!" Well, at face value, that makes about as much sense as eating your infant to prove your love, or worshipping the dessert which has been placed on the table for which you are willing to give your life to obtain.

In fact, all of the statements are quite rational and morally acceptable. Three, being contemporary, require no explanation. But not so with the statement attributed to Jesus.

The Church teaches us that discipleship demands that Jesus and the moral imperatives flowing from His Gospel must be given first priority even if that means being at odds with parents and loved ones.

Christianity is not a hobby. It is not something to be dabbled in. It is a definitive framework within which to live. It is forced upon no one; but if accepted it must be without reservation.

That is what Jesus said. That is what He meant.

So respect and treasure your parents for they are the ones who most likely gave you the two most precious gifts you have received, namely: Life and the example of how to become and remain a disciple of Jesus who reminds you that unless you "hate" them you cannot be His disciple! In the meantime, enjoy your baby. Be content with your old dining room set...and "May the dessert bless you!"

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