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Thursday, 23 June 2022 16:06

The journey begins

 As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him.

These set out and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up? But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me,’ replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first’. But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God’.

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home’. Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:51-62)

Very often in life we know what the right thing to do is, yet we can find it very difficult to do. There is a sense of that in the Gospel reading for today. The very first lines of today’s Gospel set the tone of what we will read over the next eleven Sundays about the qualities needed by and the costs involved for those who want to follow Jesus.

As the Gospel opens, we are told that Jesus ‘resolutely took the road for Jerusalem’. This long journey from Galilee to Jerusalem will be Jesus’ final journey. There is a sense of determination. Jesus knows what he must do. I think there is also a sense of reluctance. Just knowing it is the right thing to do does not make it easy to do, as we see in Jesus’ encounter with the three would-be disciples in this passage.

And, what happens when we feel we are doing the right thing and get treated badly because of it? Will we act like James and John, wanting to call down fire from heaven to punish the offenders? Or will we follow the way of Jesus and just go ‘to another village’? We can be filled with such a sense of righteousness that we turn ourselves into God’s avengers, but we are really avenging ourselves.

Jesus speaks so often about non-violence and non-resistance. Most of us find that very challenging. Why shouldn’t I strike back against the person who strikes me? Don’t I have a right to defend myself? Yet we know that retaliation simply locks us into a continuing cycle of violence and only forgiveness can break that cycle.

It is also worth contemplating the three would-be disciples in this Gospel passage. All seem to have been touched in some way by Jesus and drawn to him. All seem genuine in their desire to follow him. Jesus reply to the first begs the question: are enthusiasm and desire enough? Jesus’ reminder that he has ‘nowhere to lay his head’ seems to say that there has to be a sense of healthy realism in our decision to follow Jesus. Can we really do it? What does it ask of us? Are we prepared to live with the uncertainties?

The other two would-be disciples are also genuine in their desire and intention, ‘but first’ want to go off and fulfil their family obligations. Again, Jesus’ reply begs the question about what comes first – family obligations or our relationship with him. This is not an either/or question. When our relationship with Jesus comes first, then all our other relationships find their proper place in our lives. We can’t really put our relationship with Jesus ‘on hold’ while we sort out the rest of our lives.

The key to keeping everything in right relationship is our relationship with Jesus as the centre of our lives and who we are.

Read and print our Celebrating At Home prayers and readings for this Sunday:

pdf Celebrating At Home 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time [PDF] (4.14 MB)                            
default Celebrating At Home 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time [ePub] (3.02 MB)