June 30 – July 01 2007 - 13 Sunday - Ordinary Time C
1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21; Psalm 16: 1-2,5; Galatians 5: 1, 13-18; Luke 9: 51-62
It’s a challenging gospel today. Jesus says "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head," tells the disciple lets "the dead bury the dead" and never look back. It sounds harsh. But, only once we try it. Put God first in our lives, be loving, help others, and life gets very good. In fact, we step right into the kingdom of God.
For some people commitment and freedom seem quite incompatible. Yet today's readings call for total commitment lived in total freedom. Total commitment is impossible without total freedom. Today's Mass speaks of what it means to be fully a disciple of Jesus. This is much, much more than just being what is often understood as a "good Catholic".
A number of people express a desire to join Jesus. Obviously - like many of us - they do not fully understand precisely what it really means. We can benefit from looking at these three people because one or more of them represents me. I am also very often ready to join Jesus but “on my conditions” according to my vision and my understanding.
The first one courageously and generously says to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." He has a lot of enthusiasm but may not be aware of the realities facing him. Jesus pulls him up short. Even the wild animals have a place to live, he tells the man, but the "Son of Man" has nowhere to call his own. He has no house, no property, and no money.
One needs to be aware of what is expected of a disciple. One must be ready to let go of people and things, of all strings and attachments, of all external securities and props. Am I ready for this? Or do I set up my securities first and then, carrying them with me, decide to follow him?
Saying: “let the dead bury the dead" Jesus, of course, is not saying that we should not love and respect members of our family. But he is asking where our priorities in life really are. He is saying that, if we wish to be his disciple, we cannot make our own arrangements first and then, only when we are ready, go and follow him. The demands of the Kingdom, truth, justice, freedom and peace which we are called to build, come first of all.
How many of us first plan our careers carefully and only then ask how we can be good Christians, when it obviously should be the other way round?
Benedict XVI in his recent book "Jesus of Nazareth" comments on the theme of family relations alluded to in the above Gospel passage and offers a more profound and illuminating answer to this objection, an objection of many Christian readers of the Gospel. He takes his point of departure from something else Jesus says. "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? ... Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:48-50).
Jesus does not thereby abolish the natural family, but reveals a new family in which God is father, and men and women are all brothers and sisters thanks to a common faith in him, the Christ.
Somebody said: "Only God can demand of me what Jesus asks." And this is true. Only if I believe that Jesus Christ is God, I will be able to follow His commandments.
If a Christian does not believe that Jesus acts with the authority of God Himself and is himself God, then those, who refuse to follow Jesus, have a more coherent position than the Christians who seem to accept Christ, but don’t follow Him. One cannot accept Jesus' teaching if one does not accept his person with all the consequences of this decision.
To believe Jesus Christ means: “It's All or Nothing.”. He expects from his disciples “an unconditional 'Yes'”, because He “invested” all in our salvation.
The type of disciples that Jesus Christ is looking for is illustrated in a story told by a preacher. The Church was undergoing persecution in a certain country. The Catholics of one village gathered together for the Eucharist in their church. Suddenly their door loudly burst open. Standing before them was a soldier menacingly brandishing a machine gun. He shouted, "If you do not really believe in your Christ, get out immediately to save your lives." A number of people slinked out one by one. The soldier kicked the door after them. Then he said to those remaining, "I too believe in Jesus. We are better off without those people."