Gospel Reflection June 30 – Deacon Don

Sunday, June 30

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:51-62

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

For many of us, this Gospel is difficult first to understand, accept, and then incorporate it into our lives. The Gospel today is measuring what it means to be a disciple of Christ — how to become fully committed and fully free. For Luke, Jerusalem is the focus of Jesus’ life where his work unfolds. Jesus sets out for Jerusalem ready to face whatever comes. His reference to foxes and birds is a reminder to us that Jesus left nothing behind to delay or prevent his journey. Also, he has no expectations of anything in front of him — no prospects, no money, no domicile, that is, no constraints to distract him or prevent him from his mission.

The bad reception he gets by the Samaritan village during his journey is a reference to religious bigotry. Yet, the very reason for his journey to Jerusalem was to put an end to religious bigotry and persecutions. Jesus’ message is to provide the world a way out and bring an end to religious barriers. It is difficult to fully understand exactly what “going to Jerusalem” really means, so the Gospel gives us three examples.

In the first example, the person courageously yet unwittingly says to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Enthusiastic, but that enthusiasm may fade away once he realizes what awaits Jesus and his followers in Jerusalem. A more modern day equivalent to Jesus’ response is when Winston Churchill told the British people at the beginning of the Second World War, he had nothing to offer them but “blood, sweat and tears.” We need to realize what is expected of a disciple — to be able to let go of our worldly attachments and not be ruled by them. Are we ready for this? Or do we secure our own comforts first and then, after all the details are worked out, decide to follow him?

In the second example, this person also wants to follow Jesus. He makes what appears to be a reasonable request: “Let me go and bury my father first.” Jesus’ reply appears harsh, “Let the dead bury their dead.” We are to “…go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” While perhaps harsh, we should not assume that the man’s father was already dead. He may have been saying that he would follow Jesus only after he had fulfilled all his duties to his father. Jesus is not saying that we should not care for our family. He is asking where our priorities in life really lay? How many of us plan out our careers and many other of life’s needs first and only then ask how we might become good Christians?

In the third example, this person says he wants to follow Jesus but wants to say goodbye to his family and friends first. Like the previous example, he wants to control the timing and circumstances before responding to Jesus’ call.

To be fully committed and fully free does not mean I defy authority, misbehave morally or socially, and be self-indulgent. To be free means not clinging to external securities like money, property, status, success, achievements and the like. Ironically, the free person does exactly what he wants because he is guided, like Jesus, toward the good of others.

We live in a world where religious bigotry continues, self-indulgence is equated with freedom, and journey to Jerusalem is before us. Jesus asks us to join him in his journey to Jerusalem today. Hopefully, we are asked at a time when we can respond and respond for the right reasons. Can we put our hand to the plow and not look back?

Deacon Don Poirier