Third Sunday after Pentecost
This gospel is not an easy read.
It’s not far-fetched to read Jesus whiney, Jesus insensitive, Jesus rude.
So, let’s embrace the uneasiness and read.
Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem”.
This recalls the Prophet Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, a prefiguration of Jesus, who, in his suffering, says, “I have set my face like flint.” (Isaiah 50:7)
In commenting on this passage, Saint Bede (depicted in our clerestory!),
English Benedictine monk, who died in 735, says
“Jesus, going voluntarily to be crucified, sought with steadfast face, that is,
with resolute and undaunted mind, the spot where He was to be crucified.”
Jesus is on mission possible, mission certain, that no one will thwart,
in the light of which only can we understand these interactions.
In Jerusalem He will lay down His life, a self-offering
of immeasurable love into which we are drawn, by which we are saved.
There is an urgency and a gravity that informs and colors everything.
Two disciples, “messengers”, James and John, go ahead.
When, for the inhospitality, they want to destroy the village people,
Jesus rightly rebukes them.
Jesus’ subsequent encounters, however, are disturbing.
To the person who eagerly wants to follow him,
Jesus responds, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
To the person who movingly wants to bury his father and
then follow him, Jesus responds, “Let the dead bury their own dead.”
To the person who touchingly wants first to say farewell to those at home and then follow him, Jesus responds, “No one who puts a hand
to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
My interpretive presumption, when Jesus seems to be harsh,
is that he knows his interlocutor, he knows the person he is engaging,
and that he/she can hear the demands of divine love in full, strong terms.
Not that divine love invites or warrants harshness
or negligence of duty towards family!
But being truly loving is more than being nice.
And the love that Jesus communicates directly from the heart of God,
so to be received as given, demands that we place no conditions. Unconditional love must be met with unconditional love.
This seems to be the point.
If so, Jesus surely invites us this morning to look into our hearts,
to see if there may be a few “Yes, but”….
An invitation to honesty, an invitation, however, that we need not fear.
As our reading from Galatians suggests,
we already belong to Christ and He has set us free
by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Whom He has given to us.
Jesus has us covered from pre-start to finish. We must simply be willing.
If we forget this,
we may conclude that the Christian life is not for us.
Or we may settle for our own small version of it: just being nice.
There really is, however, no small version of it.
The Christian life is a relationship with Christ, a total life
and He wants all of me—good and bad.
The surrender of ‘all’ to Jesus, thankfully, is not something I do on my own.
If it were, I would conclude that the Christian life is not for me
and walk right out those doors.
St. Jeanne de Chantal (there is a parish named after her in Bethesda, MD)
was a French baroness, widowed in 1601 at age 28, with four children.
Imagine. And no cell phone to navigate her distress.
Her husband’s accidental death led her to consecrate her life to Christ, anew.
She eventually founded an order of nuns, the Congregation of the Visitation. She says, “Keep your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him.
That is all the doing you have to worry about.”
Saint Dominic Savio was from northern Italy, born in 1842.
At age four, his parents would already find him praying in solitude.
He contracted a lung disease as an adolescent.
On his deathbed, his final words were,
“Goodbye, Dad, goodbye ... Oh, what wonderful things I see...”
He was fourteen, the only adolescent declared a saint
not for having been a martyr, but for having simply lived a holy life.
He too acknowledges that this total relationship is God’s doing.
He says, “Ask Jesus to make you a saint. After all, only He can do that.”