• 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21 • Galatians 5:1, 13-18 • Luke 9:51-62 • 13 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 06.30.2013
Scripture Readings: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
As a young person my image of what God is like was significantly different than my image today. At that time we who are Catholic commonly thought there was a divine plan for each of us. It was our task to discern that plan and make a decision. I struggled to discern God’s will for me. It was a difficult, challenging and sometimes a confusing task. In our Catholic culture at that time, Luke’s gospel text proclaimed here today contributed to the confusion.
As Jesus begins his final journey to Jerusalem, people from a Samaritan village reject him. They had their reasons. “He was heading for Jerusalem.” For centuries the Samaritans nurtured their deep-seeded prejudice against Judean Jews.
We see here the cycle of violence. In response to their prejudicial rejection James and John want to retaliate. “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Jesus simply “rebuked James and John and went to another village.”
Luke shows us the nonviolent Jesus. In discerning vocation, the challenge of being a nonviolent person never entered my consideration. Those providing me spiritual direction emphasized “imitating Christ.” Ordination, like baptism, was thought of only in terms of “personal salvation.” Prior to the Second Vatican Council we ignored or were ignorant of the nonviolent Jesus. No one even suggested that imitating Jesus meant committing self to a nonviolent lifestyle.
Spiritual formation during my years in theology stressed the second part of this gospel text in which Luke informs us that three individuals approach Jesus. They want to follow him.
The first man said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” In response Jesus refers to fox dens and bird nests. He warns the man there is no personal advantage in following him. He does not offer security or wellbeing to us and will not help us make money or acquire power.
To the second of the three, Jesus said, “come follow me.” During my years of formation, this was mistakenly emphasized as an invitation to become a priest! To this man Jesus replied, “let the dead bury their own dead.” In other words working to bring about a more humane way of life for the living is the most urgent task; more urgent than burying family members who have died.
The third man said, “please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye. Then I will follow you.” To him Jesus replied, “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” In other words you will not be able to promote a more humane way of life for the living if you remain tied to your past.
During my formation years this text was simplistically summarized as a summons to make an immediate and wholehearted response to God’s call. It became a handy guide to “guilt feelings.” That certainly is not the point.
In the text, “come follow me” is an invitation to discipleship, not to priesthood. To follow the nonviolent Jesus means to imitate him by embracing a life of unconditional love. Being nonviolent means enabling others to lead a truly human life.
I presume your presence here is a statement that you do want to follow and imitate Christ. So hear this text as an admonishment or warning. Attachment to friends or family members can subtly place limitations on my ability to love. So too, attachment to my home or recreational opportunities can subtly place limitations on my ability to love.
This text does not expect us to reject family, friends, home or recreational opportunities. It does call us to consciously be aware of the many circumstances that can diminish my intention to follow and imitate Christ. Allowing that to happen diminishes my own ability to be fully alive and fully human.