13th Sunday C
June 30, 2019 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Journeying with Jesus
We begin this Sunday with that Section of Luke’s Gospel that starts
the Journey from Galilee in the North to Jerusalem in the South. Luke
follows the basic pattern in writing his Gospel that Mark followed.
Both begin with the ministry of Jesus in Galilee and then move on to the
Journey. The Journey in Mark is only two chapters. Luke expands this
journey to 10 chapters. Luke is writing in a time when the church is
expanding. In his Journey narrative he adds additional teaching of
Jesus. Since his church is spreading out, we often times hear Jesus
speaking to problems that the young Church is facing. Luke applies the
teaching of Jesus to the problems of the communities to whom he is
Homily: Luke is a very organized and yet very creative writer. We see
these characteristics in the recurrence of certain themes throughout the
Gospel. Jerusalem holds a prominent place in this Gospel. The journey
theme is found in a variety of ways.
Before Jesus is born he makes a journey in Mary’s womb to visit his
relative John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. Jesus is born on a
journey for a journey. At his birth shepherds journey to Jerusalem to
see. After his birth his parents journey to Jerusalem to present him
in the temple. At the age of twelve his parents journey from their
home in Nazareth to Jerusalem and Jesus is lost in the temple. When he
begins his public life he is journeying to the Jordan and then to the
wilderness and then he journeys about Galilee. In today’s Gospel he begins
a journey to Jerusalem. But in Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus,
Jesus will suffer and die and rise from the dead in Jerusalem.
The gospel will end with Jesus Ascending to heaven, to the new
Jerusalem. But then we will begin book two of Luke’s story. From his
place in heaven Jesus will send the Holy Spirit and the young church
will begin a Journey out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and then to
the ends of the Earth. The main instrument of this spread will be Paul
and his missionary journeys. So we will journey with Jesus this
summer. Jesus made a real journey to Jerusalem. But we speak of the
following of Jesus as being a following of the WAY. The followers are
called Christians. This builds on the Old Testament idea of being
followers of the Way of God. Our life is a journey. We come from
God, spend a time here and then journey to God.
This passage is a turning point in Luke’s Gospel. This Sunday’s passage from Luke is about commitment. First and foremost is Jesus commitment. Jesus had to this point preached and taught and worked miracles in Galilee. He was well received by the majority of people. Now he must journey to Jerusalem, the seat of power where people would be more hostile toward him.
As Jesus sets out on this journey he sends messengers ahead of him.
But they are not received because they are journeying through Samaria to
Jerusalem. In the view of the Samaritans Jesus is going to the wrong
place (Jerusalem) and they need not show him hospitality. Between the
Samaritans and Jews there was intense hatred. This was the sin of
racism. It is nothing personal against Jesus, he is a Jew. The sin of
racism is alive and well in our world. The sons of thunder’s response
is to call down fire. Our equivalent of sending them to hell. “Jesus
tell them to go to hell.” This is the sin of being a fanatic. But Jesus rebukes them. When he sent the 12 he told them to go, and where received stay, where rejected, move on. He not only says this but here he does what he says. The importance of
saying and doing the same thing. Not to have the contradiction. Later
on in this Gospel Jesus will highlight the Samaritans in a very curious
way. He will make a Samaritan an example not of badness but of
goodness. He will tell the parable of the Good Samaritan. And he will
also say that of the ten lepers cured only one will give him thanks and
that man is a SAMARITAN.
A first person comes to him and says he wants to follow. Jesus
tells him that the foxes have the lairs and the birds of the air their
nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head. He is telling
them that following him means a certain sense of insecurity.
A second person comes and wants to bury his father. Jesus’ words:
Let the dead bury the dead. What does that mean? The obligation to
bury people was strong to the Jews. As we look at Jesus life we see
him present when Lazarus is buried, when the widow is going to bury
her only son he raises him up. This passage should probably be understood to mean that this man intends to defer the matter of following Jesus to a distant future when his father dies as an old man. The man is saying to Jesus, “surely you don’t expect me to violate the expectations of my community?” Yet this is precisely what Jesus requires.
Then a third person will come who requests permission to say good
bye. This more properly should be understood as a request to take leave of his parents or ask for their permission to leave.
In the first reading Elisha had made the same request of Elijah.
Elijah had granted the request. But then Elisha had made a complete
break. He slaughters the twelve oxen (he must have been wealthy). He
makes a fire with the plow and then has a meal, a despedida. He then
commits himself to the following of Elijah completely. Jesus is more
demanding than Elijah. Whoever sets his hand to the plow and turns
back is not worthy of the Kingdom. Jesus is also saying that the following of him will be difficult work.
In each of these three brief stories we do not know what the response of the person is. The first and third person come volunteering to follow Jesus. The second person was summoned by Jesus.
We would seem to be called to examine our sense of commitment to following Jesus. He was steadfast in beginning and continuing his journey to Jerusalem. We have had our moments of commitment to Jesus at some time in our life, or we can perhaps make it now. We should ask for the grace to be steadfast in our commitment.
We get a sense of how radical it is to follow Jesus.
We all have the remarkable ability to say we want to follow Jesus and
then do what we want. Jesus is telling us that this should not be so.
Interesting to me that Michael Sean Winters writing for NCR is calling the U.S.bishops to civil disobedience. Wouldn’t that be something. Their published response to the present crisis is woeful.
( To foil Sunday excuses a wit proposed that we supply the following: beds, cotton, hearing aids, fans, blankets, food, invite relatives, grass and plants, poinsettias and lilies, etc. We Must look at our excuses. )