I’ve heard it said, and I believe it: the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Hate requires some sort of emotional connection and response. Indifference comes from being insulated from that sort of connection, it seems.

Today’s gospel begins:

Jesus said to his disciples:
If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.

This makes me more than a little uncomfortable. First, the word “hate” is so strong. We fling the word “love” around so freely, sometimes it doesn’t hold the power of “hate.” I mean the word “love”, not actual Love. Love can be just as frightening as Hate. I’m not so brave about either of these.

And yet I can find some comfort in this passage. To be hated for the right reasons might mean I have done something right or at least tried to do the right thing. And Jesus repeatedly reminds us that we are not alone — the world hated Him first.

Several years ago, before I started writing here, I found that the more I struggled to come closer to God, the more negative response I got from a particular group within my [then] parish. Anonymous letters full of information about malformed consciences were not the least of the indications. Being informed that we couldn’t use “Gather Us in” as a hymn at mass because the 3rd verse (“Make us your bread, broken for others, shared until all are fed”) was heretical. (Go figure that one out) It’s hard to stand tall when your very being is being attacked. And, I hated back.

As I reflect on this, the message that finally comes through is one of support and comfort. Jesus was there, Jesus is there, Jesus went through this pain. I wasn’t alone – He knew these things would happen because He experienced them. And after being given a penance that involved offering every song I sang at mass as a prayer for those I felt were persecuting me (I did that for 7 months before I knew I had completed it), I was gifted with a change of heart in myself. I find that after many years, I still pray for those that I felt were persecuting me. I pray for them in their own walk with God.

I still don’t want to be hated. I don’t like being in these uncomfortable situations. But, at least I know I’m not alone.