Luke 9: 51-62
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Cycle –C.
27th June 2010.
Today’s Gospel passage marks a turning point in Luke. After Jesus’ popular healing ministry in His native Galilee region, Luke tells us that “Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem.” A travel narrative now begins, with a series of teachings on the nature of discipleship, and it will end in the place where Jesus meets His suffering and death. Jerusalem is not just another city, another place to preach and cure. Jesus knew that, we know it and His disciples are about to learn it. What we will be reminded of on this journey with Jesus and His disciples, is that following Jesus is not just a casual decision, one of many we make in our life time. Luke is setting out to show us that we must make careful consideration of the costs and unwavering commitment that following Jesus requires.
Last week Jesus told us that, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly;” Which leads us to the opening gesture that He makes today and its dramatic significance.
“…Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem.”
He turns and heads “resolutely and determinedly” to the place that holds suffering and death for Him. What He has asked His disciples to do, Jesus does first. He denies self and takes up His cross daily. We are invited to join Him on His journey; deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him.
Life is frequently described as a journey—it has a beginning, an end and along the way there are important stopping-off places with countless options. The difference for us Christians however, is that it is more than a journey, it is a pilgrimage. We are like pilgrims of old, traveling together towards a special place, praying as we go and supporting one another as we face the challenges along the way.
Jerusalem is the backdrop for Jesus’ journey. He keeps Jerusalem always in His mind’s eye. He has a task to accomplish and we will all be the beneficiaries. Jesus makes it quite clear along the way that to follow Him is to be willing to journey whole heartedly with Him to Jerusalem. No compromises, no half measures. The somber words to the potential disciples in today’s Gospel are not there to frighten us off, but rather show us that we need to join in His single-minded determination.
These are real challenges and at certain moments in our life we are surely called to make them. There are times in our life when the two paths open up before us and we know that Jesus wants us to take the road less travelled.
The first potential disciple is reminded that following Jesus has its own insecurities, even homelessness.
The second is told that there is even a higher loyalty than filial responsibilities. Let the spiritually dead deal with their dead.
And to the third, who wants to go and say farewell to his family, Jesus says He will tolerate no delays. There is no looking back if you want to plow a straight line. Jesus is not in the numbers game. Rather than just add numbers to His followers, Jesus wants them to know what they are getting into if they decide to go with Him to Jerusalem.
These hard sayings are there for us to meditate and think over; to challenge us in our everyday life; to help us to examine our consciences so that we can clearly see those things that get in our way, and put them in their proper perspective. But they are also there to prepare us for the big choices that will surely come.
Is each of us ready to reaffirm our commitment to Christ when sacrifice and not “success” is the fruit of discipleship? The “Son of Man has no where to rest His head,”— while many of us often allow little of the world’s pain to enter our head and disturb our peace of mind. Do the pictures of the suffering we see each evening on television news ever cause us a restless night? Or even a few minutes less sleep? Are we haunted at night by the distress of others— enough for us to rise and be determined to do some little bit to change a situation so that others might rest more easily?
Who among us hasn’t looked back? Or, made a choice for our own profit, rather than accept the sacrifice of discipleship? Who hasn’t kept quiet about some injustice, when we should have spoken up, so that we can continue to fit in comfortably with our peers? We have gone with the flow rather than spoken up and put ourselves on the line.
Thankfully we have this Eucharist, the meal of recommitment. Gathered around the table, we hear the words that rebuild the crumbling structure, patch the cracks and freshen up the paint of our discipleship. We eat the meal that knits us more closely into a community that has heard the invitation to follow, considered the costs and still says “yes”; even if it is a fragile “yes,” sometimes timidly whispered rather than shouted confidently.
Following Christ is not one thing among the many things we do each day. It should be at the core of our lives and the basis of the decisions we make. This gospel today is about a moment of decision, not just for those in the narrative, but for each of us. We are being invited to a new and more meaningful life, as well as one that requires personal sacrifice. Today is a day of decision and flexibility, for once again Jesus is inviting us, “Follow me…”
Elisha completely destroys his past to follow the prophet Elijah and to respond to God’s call. He hears the call and responds in the midst of his daily life; a very typical place for a call in the Bible. What we do everyday is most likely the place of our call as well.
The call may be: to simplify our lives; to cut back on our hectic schedule for the sake of our family; get out of an abusive relationship; quit the gang of young people we hang around with, or like Elisha, while we are plowing, busy about our day’s work; etc etc;
In one way or another we hear it again: “follow me”.
In today’s Gospel we not only hear the invitation to follow, but already hear what’s required– total trust and dedication. Our relationship with God is what is stressed.
A relationship that doesn’t enslave us but graces us, and frees us. We don’t follow a dogma or creed, but the person of Christ.
We might understand what is required to follow Jesus but we are not told where the journey will take us. There is no agenda, and Jesus isn’t handing out a route map the day He says, “Follow me.” Those who respond to him will have to put aside the need to know and control our lives. We have joined Him on the road and we will have to trust He knows where we are going and what will help get us there.
We come to a resting place at this Eucharist; which reminds us that Jesus is constantly with us each step of our way to Jerusalem. We continually celebrate that Jesus has not left us orphans, but that we have His Spirit helping us respond to the One who speaks in the present tense to us today;