13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 26, 2016
Luke 9: 51-62
Ursulines, Willow Dr., New Rochelle
“When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined [lit.: “set his face”] to journey to Jerusalem” (Luke 9: 51).
Last week we read the passage in which Peter identifies Jesus as “the Christ of God” and Jesus makes his 1st prediction of his passion and resurrection. Skipping over passages about the transfiguration, an exorcism, the 2d passion prediction, and teaching about greatness in the kingdom of heaven, we come to today’s passage, which starts anew section in Luke’s Gospel but is related to Jesus’ being “the Christ,” to his passion prediction, to his transfiguration, and to greatness in the kingdom. That section recounts Jesus’ slow, resolute journey from Galilee to Jerusalem to “be taken up.”
Luke speaks of the days being fulfilled. Underlying that language is idea of God’s plan. St. John might have said that Jesus’ hour was approaching. Implicit is Jesus’ willingness to fulfill what God has planned.
So Jesus sets out “resolutely” for Jerusalem and the destiny that he knows awaits him there. His “resolution” contrasts with the fickleness and shortsightedness of his disciples, who repeatedly misunderstand his teaching, resist God’s plan, squabble among themselves. The latest example of the apostles’ density comes when James and John, those 2 “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), suggest that the inhospitable Samaritan village should be incinerated like Sodom and Gomorrah.
So the little band heads toward Jerusalem. We may think we’re talking about Jesus and the 12, but Luke tells us in ch. 8 that they were “accompanied” by “some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities.” He names 3, including Mary Magdalene, but adds that there were many others. No mention of additional male disciples, tho it’s reasonable to suppose there were some. It’s the women, however, who will reveal their resolution by staying with Jesus all the way to Calvary.
Then Luke presents to us 3 instances of irresolution that contrast with Jesus’ steadfastness in going the way determined for him by his Father; in fact, they contrast even with the faithfulness of the 12, however fickle that may have been.
1st, a fellow offers to follow Jesus anywhere. Jesus warns him of the rootlessness, you might say homelessness, of his followers—something more severe than we religious generally practice today. We’re not told that the man said, “Forget it!” Neither are we told that he joined the itinerants on their way to Jerusalem.
Next, Jesus calls a man who expresses a willingness to follow Jesus—but not yet. His reply, “Let me bury my father,” doesn’t mean that Dad has just died and must be buried—which would have been that very day—but, “I’ll come with you after my father dies”—whenever that might be. Jesus reminds him of the urgency of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Again, we don’t know what the man’s final response was.
Finally, there’s the fellow who wants to say his good-byes (as I’ve been doing for 2 weeks, to the detriment of packing books, clothes, and office supplies). This man’s answer sounds quite like Elisha’s, doesn’t it? But Jesus’ answer contrasts with Elijah’s. It implies that the man is reluctant—unlike Elisha, who resolutely leaves behind his previous career and livelihood.
So the gospel offers us the resolution of Jesus in doing what his Father asks, versus the irresolution of other people. It calls upon us as followers of Jesus to be steadfast in going where he calls us to go—not just from one house to another, but even leaving behind attitudes like the harshness of James and John. He calls us, in the words of the Collect, to be “children of light,” not of thunder; to let God unwrap us from our darkness, our sins, our self-centered attitudes—no “selfies” allowed in Jesus’ camp! Jesus calls us to be focused totally on the kingdom of God: “You are my inheritance, O Lord” (Responsorial Psalm). Jesus calls us each day to renew our resolution to come along with him on his journey to Jerusalem—the city of his passion, the city of his glorification.