July 26, 2022 at Saint William Catholic Church in Naples, FL
1 Kings 19, 19-21 + Psalm 16 + Galatians 5, 1, 13-18 + Luke 9, 51-62
There is so much in the verses of this Gospel proclaimed throughout the world today. It is almost too much for one Sunday. We could easily take three weeks to reflect on each of these three people who came up to Jesus wanting to be disciples. Relax! I’m not going to do that. Today. Their excuses are all good ones and timely, but they are just that, excuses. Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. That is the future. There is no looking back, and that comment at the end of this passage is a good thought for all of us who sometimes prefer to look backward rather than to look forward. It is the future that matters, not the past. It is the past that got us to this day, and we are a people and a church moving toward the future, Jerusalem, which for us in the Kingdom of God. Repeating the past does not get us moving, it just leaves us standing in place.
What is said before these wanna-be disciples come up to Jesus is almost more important because it speaks to those who are already disciples, James and John.
Jesus is taking a short-cut through Samaria to get to Jerusalem, and that direct route takes him through enemy territory. The Samaritans are hostile to the Jews, and when they discover a Jew passing through is headed to Jerusalem they go out of their way to be inhospitable and perhaps even violent. John and James are mad about this. They have encountered people who are different. They have encountered a people who believe differently, seem hostile, and are completely at odds with what James, John, and Jesus believe to be true. These two apostles imagine that they have some magical or divine power to destroy, and they want to use it. That’s the way they respond to someone who is different: get rid of them. What they discover, and what this Gospel reminds us of today is that Jesus and his Father are not in the business of obliterating other. That is simply not the way it works with God and with God’s people. Jesus simply tells them to look for a more hospitable spot, and that’s all there is to it.
We could learn a good lesson from this simple event. We can learn from watching Jesus and from watching his disciples. Love cannot be coerced, and so God simply waits. God does not force anyone to faith. God does not punish those who are slow to believe. God just waits because grace works very slowly. As this episode continues, what we see is that all kinds of people are being invited to join Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. One turns him down and he simply invites another. Some follow and sone don’t None are perfect, but none are totally lost.
The only thing that frees us to follow Jesus and make it to Jerusalem is love. With it there is no danger or fear, and the lure of the past has no power. While Jesus had no place to lay his head, his followers enjoy many homes. It is a vision of the Kingdom, the New Jerusalem that motivates us to look to Jesus and learn from him. It is a vision of the Kingdom and the New Jerusalem that give us a kind of inner peace, confidence, and hope that allows us to live with others who are different, and wait, like the Father, for all to be one.