|13th Sunday in Ordinary time, 26 June 2016|
From the Dean’s desk
With today’s Gospel [Luke 9:51-62] we come to an important and crucial section of Luke’s story. Here Jesus makes a sincere resolution to journey to Jerusalem, knowing full well what awaits him there – persecution, imprisonment, suffering, death and resurrection. He has already spoken about this to his disciples [cf Last week’s gospel – Luke 9:22 -24], in the hope that they will understand that what he is saying may make an impression on their lives.
Today he places before us some conditions that we need to take on board in order for us to fully and faithfully follow him as his disciples. As Jesus resolutely sets his face towards Jerusalem [v.51] he sends some of his disciples ahead of him to some Samaritan (non-Jewish) towns. The end result is that these people did not welcome a group of wandering Jews into their midst. The response of James and John is for them to ‘call down fire from heaven to burn them up’ [v. 54]. Jesus’ rebuke of their suggestion tells us that the first condition of true disciples is the way of peace and not violence. Violence should not be a means of obtaining conversions.
Next we see a series of three encounters with three different people who either approach Jesus or are approached by him to become disciples. Jesus’ response to these three people form the other conditions for discipleship. The first claims that he ‘will follow him anywhere’. Jesus responds by describing the uncertainty of following in his ways [v. 58]. To follow Jesus we need more than just enthusiasm; it requires also commitment. We can dream, but we need to be part of the process that allows the dream to become a reality.
Jesus approaches the second person to follow him. The man responds by asking permission to bury his father first. Jesus’ response sounds harsh, but the point he is making is that we should not put conditions on when we wish to follow in Christ’s way. We should not be dictating the conditions, but should have enough trust in the ways of the Lord to be able to follow when we hear the call.
The third asks to go and farewell his family first. Jesus’ response that one should not look back once a person has made the decision to follow emphasises the fact that half-heartedness cannot be part of the disciples’ call – the commitment has to be one hundred percent. Jesus says to us today that if we wish to follow in his ways then we need to allow our methods to be based on peace and not violence; that we need to add commitment to our enthusiasm; that we need to be not only dreamers but also participants in bringing about a better world; that we cannot insist on our own conditions for following Jesus and that we need to give of our total selves to the mission, rather than be half-hearted in our attempts to follow Jesus.
The call to discipleship is indeed demanding, but fidelity to it brings about its reward – eternal life. Today we are challenged to re-focus our lives on Jesus’ call and not to be lost in the events of yesterday or the past or to be confused and disrupted by the uncertainties of tomorrow, but to live the present with enthusiasm, courage and commitment towards Jesus’ call and his life.
Fr Robert Bossini