We have reached a point in the Gospel of St. Luke which shifts the action from Galilee to Jesus’ resolute determination to go to Jerusalem. Up until this point, the Gospel of St. Luke concentrates on Jesus’ healing activity and teaching in the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee. Now our attention shifts to Jerusalem. However, we must keep in mind that Jesus’ life was not simply a series of unforeseen events. There is an overarching plan, a divine strategy in play. The goal of Jesus’ life is to be taken up. However, the ascension, as we call it, can only be reached by walking the road that leads to death and resurrection. This is the road to Jerusalem. Jesus summons his courage and determination and moves toward the penultimate events of death and resurrection in the Holy City. These events will bring him to his ultimate destiny of directing the actions of his disciples from his position, his throne in heaven.
As he walks toward Jerusalem with his disciples in tow, he continues to teach them about the demands of discipleship. In teaching them, Jesus also teaches us. What kind of behavior characterizes a disciple of Jesus?
James and John, whom Jesus appropriately calls the sons of thunder, fulminate when Jesus is denied access to Samaria. They react to rejection with rejection. They respond in kind, only with a little more muscle. Mere refusal to welcome Jesus is met with a scorched-earth policy. Jesus is rejected precisely because he is headed for Jerusalem, a city where Samaritans are not welcome. Their refusal triggers a retaliatory reaction in the sons of thunder. Their passion for revenge is the exact opposite of the way of Jesus who has told them previously that they are to “love their enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Next a would-be disciple approaches and declares his intention to follow Jesus wherever he goes. Jesus notes his enthusiasm and dampens it a little by reminding this person that he must be ready to follow Jesus to Jerusalem. Has his zeal and enthusiasm taken that into account? Jesus injects a note of realism into his romanticism. “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Then Jesus actually invites someone to follow him. When this man asks to be allowed to return home to bury his father, Jesus reminds him that following him means making Jesus the priority. Jesus cannot wait for this man to return home and wait for his father to die. Now is the time to proclaim the kingdom; we cannot wait until it is convenient.
Finally another man tells Jesus that he will follow after he has had an opportunity to bid farewell to his family. Actually, he does not propose to go back to his family for a final farewell party. He wants to return to his family for their blessing on what he has decided to do. Jesus reminds him that once he decided to follow Jesus, he cannot go back on his decision or allow others to change his mind.
Each of these situations finds its correlation in our own lives. We will not always experience a welcome if we make the convictions of our faith an integral part of our lives. However, when we are rejected, we cannot strike back. We may also find that following Jesus may complicate our search for comfort in this world. However, Jesus has not asked us to follow him so that we can be comfortable. Following Jesus does not mean that we must turn away from our natural family, but it does mean that our faith in Jesus must be a priority. We are not in the position of discipleship to win the approval of others. Jesus is our only source of approval.
All of Ordinary Time, from now until Advent, is meant to teach us about the demands of discipleship. We gather at the table of the Lord each week to receive the sustenance we need to fulfill our destiny as we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem so we too may go up with Jesus and live with him forever.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator