Gospel Reading: Luke 9:51-62
Vs.51 Now as the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, he resolutely took the road for Jerusalem
Vs.52 and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him
Vs.53 but the people would not receive him because he was making his way to Jerusalem.
Vs.54 Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?”
Vs.55 But he turned and rebuked them,
Vs.56 and they went off to another village.
Vs.57 As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to them, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Vs.58 Jesus answered, Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Vs.59 Another to whom he said, “follow me,” replied, “Let me go and bury my father first.”
Vs.60 But he answered, “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”
Vs.61 Another said, I will follow you sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.”
Vs.62 Jesus said to him, “Once the hand is laid to the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In the church’s calendar Ordinary Time began on the first Monday after Pentecost Sunday with Ordinary Time week 10. And as it is the practice to celebrate Trinity Sunday and the Feast of Corpus Christ on the following two Sundays respectively, we now pick up on the Sundays of Ordinary time again with 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. As this is Year 3 or C we will be journeying with Luke’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem so you will notice a clear shift in the mood and dynamic of this passage from previous Sundays.
When did this take place?
This happened shortly after the experience of Transfiguration. This had been a decisive moment for Jesus when through a profound experience of the Father’s love he was confirmed in his identity and mission, and strengthened and empowered for the daunting prospect of taking his radical message to Jerusalem – the heart of the Political, Social and Religious establishment.
Where did this happen?
The context is in Samaria on the road to Jerusalem. Samaria lies in central Palestine between Galilee in the North and Judea in the South.
Who was there?
Samaritans – those whom the Jews considered to be impure and half-caste because of inter-marriage with Assyrian invaders centuries before. As an expression of this division and segregation the Samaritans worshipped Yahweh on Mount Gerazim while the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem. Mutual opposition, distrust and contempt had deepened over time. The Jews for the most part despised the Samaritans.. Despite this enmity, Jesus worked to break down the barriers and build bridges between them; on several occasions he praised the Samaritans and set them us as exemplars entering into the work of the of the reign of God.
James and John – referred to in Mark’s gospel as the “sons of thunder” – perhaps this episode gives us the reason why. They were hot headed, fiery characters, who responded to the rejection of hospitality from one Samaritan town with a desire to curse and destroy it.
Jesus – having resolved to go to Jerusalem, there is a keen urgency and determination about everything he says and does.
In the second section vs 57ff we hear of the three “would be disciples” who were challenged by Jesus regarding the true cost of discipleship.
This Gospel is clearly divided into sections: vs 51-56 the non-violence of Jesus and vs.57 -62 the absolute availability, loyalty and obedience required of any serious follower of Jesus
V51-56 – When they sought shelter and hospitality in a Samaritan village and were rejected, James and John responded with a violent urge to curse and to burn it to the ground. There are strong allusions here to the prophet Elijah’s calling down fire from heaven and destroying the messengers of the king of Samaria in 2 Kings 1: 5ff.
But Jesus rebuked them. He deplored any talk of violence. His life was testament to active resistance to injustice but never by means of more violence. Furthermore, he always left people free to accept or reject him. Calmly and wisely he directed his disciples to get over their hurt and humiliation and to move on to another village.
V57-62 is in relation to “would be followers”.
V57- “I will follow you wherever you go” – this was a well-intentioned man, clearly moved and inspired by Jesus. But Jesus’ reply left him under no illusion about the insecurity of his own life – without home, without family solidarity and all that this entailed – name, identity, social standing, acceptance. A life of dedicated discipleship had its cost and was not to be entered into lightly.
V59- Obviously Jesus saw someone with potential and approached him. “Follow me”. The man’s reply might be considered as an honourable request – loyalty to his father and taking responsibility for his burial in keeping with Jewish law. But for Jesus the Kingdom project and the present urgency of it has to take priority over every other duty. Interestingly, Luke’s gospel was written for a mainly Gentile audience. Many converts to the early Christian communities experienced a tension with their own families and had been forced to make a break and go their separate ways. These words of Jesus would have given them some encouragement.V61- 62- echoed Elijah’s call of Elisha recorded in 1st book of Kings (19: 18-21) “let me kiss my father and my mother and then I will follow you”. For Jesus there was something radically new in what he was offering. Bondage to the past would only minimize and detract from the energy and freedom required to respond to the opportunities and demands of the present -“no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”.
As a leader, he was talking from experience, saying it as it was, not deluding or making false promises, but trying to ensure that people knew what they were getting into – the insecurity, the hardships and the sacrifices involved in the mission of bringing the good news of God’s love to the world.
Guidelines for Meditation.
From the perspective of Jesus:
When have you seen or when have you been someone with that kind of zeal and enthusiasm for a worthy cause,
· Reconciliation and peace.
· Climate change.
· Equality and Inclusion.
· Truth and justice
· The message of Jesus
the call was urgent and all-consuming and required the persuasion of others too?
Can you identify someone in family, community or public life whose leadership has been inspiring by being
· Honest and forthright about the difficulties and challenges ahead;
· only asking of others what they themselves were prepared to do;
· leaving others free to follow or not;
Remember the champions of non-violence in international, local or domestic affairs who have courageously resisted the temptation to retaliate and seek revenge and shown us another way to respond with brave endurance, wise understanding and forgiveness, generous compassion and goodwill intent on healing, reconciliation and peace.
From the perspective of the disciples:
Can you recall a situation where you yourself, or someone close to you, suffered a painful rejection;
igniting a rage that was intent on cursing and destroying the person or people who had wronged you? Remember with gratitude the one who helped to calm your anger and saved you from embarking on a path of destruction.
When have you been, or when have you seen, someone coming to terms with the implications and demands of a serious life commitment in
- Career choice
Remember with gratitude those who inspired us by their example.
Let the prayers of thanksgiving, repentance and petition flow from your meditation – ideally these are expressed in our own words interlaces with words from the passage. (See introduction to Lectio stages.)
Let the rich silence of God’s presence grow and deepen as we journey to a prayer of no words and no images – simple presence to the presence of God. (Contemplative moment – see introduction).
We reflect on our experience of the work of God in the passage and in life until a truth or some truths emerge – new insights into life and love – which can be savoured and celebrated in prayer as they release their life-giving power in us, moulding and shaping our minds and hearts and bearing fruit in our lives. (Wisdom Moment – see introduction).