Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
26 June 2010
St. Lawrence Catholic Center at the University of Kansas
In today's Scriptures we are confronted with the reality of how easy it is to have Christ follow us, rather than our choosing to leave everything to follow Him. The scriptures show how easy it is to be a Christian who tries to stay close to Jesus, versus being a Christian who is truly and fully a disciple, who does nothing but follow Jesus, doing only what Jesus tells him to do. Those who try to stay close to Jesus are generally good people, very good people, but they are not fully free, because their lives remain a confusing admixture of what they want and what God wants. The latter, who understand freedom not as primarily directed toward self-determination or self-expression, but as directed to service out of love, are not confused, but have a purity of mind and heart, because they have the virtue of obedience born of faith. True Christians and true disciples have the virtue of obedience born of love; they do nothing but what Christ tells them because they have come to know nothing more than they know the love of Christ, who has loved them personally and set them free to live a vocation received directly from Him.
In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us a litmus test, or an examination of conscience, if you will, if we might imagine ourselves and the circumstances of our lives, in the four positions discussed in rapid succession in today's Gospel text. Firstly, the disciples James and John, who are resolutely following Jesus to Jerusalem, are confronted with Samaritans who will not give them support. James and John ask the Lord whether they should hate their enemies, but Jesus directs them to move on, and not to allow detractors to either distract or prevent them from following Him. How often do we allow the opinions of others, and their thoughts of what is reasonable for us to do, to determine how closely we follow Jesus?
Secondly, we have a volunteer who claims to want to follow Jesus wherever He may go. Jesus issues the simple challenge that following Him will not always be a bed of roses; in fact, it involves no bed at all. How often do we allow our investment that we have made in who we are and where we stand to determine how closely we are following Jesus? I'm not saying that all of us are in the wrong place, I'm just asking how ready we are to move.
Thirdly, we have not a volunteer but someone Jesus calls to follow Him, like He calls us and like He called the first apostles. The man qualifies his response by wanting first to bury His father, a noble and a just responsibility indeed. Jesus speaks to him very plainly as well, by telling him to let the dead bury the dead, and showing us that when He calls us, it will mean the sacrifice of many good and noble opportunities that we have our minds and hearts set on. Following Jesus means we can no longer approach life by wanting to do as many good things as we can, leaving all our options open, but must close many options so that our lives focus like a laser, doing only what Jesus is asking of us, nothing more, nothing less, because we know that in His will is also His love for us.
Finally, a second volunteer emerges, who wants like Elisha when chosen by Elijah to go say goodbye to his family. What is hidden in Jesus' response is the importance of family life and responsibility, but without saying anything against these, Jesus tells Him to serve His family by focusing all his heart and mind and strength on the will of God, and instructs the man and all of us that in following Him, the past does not and cannot determine the future. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, so we must never look backwards, and instead always move forward in hope with Him, in Him and through Him, moving away from our sins and toward the vocation that He has marked out for us and for no one else. How many of us let the discipleship of the past dull us and numb us to the opportunities that are possible in the future, if only we choose once again today in the context of this Eucharist, to follow Jesus more closely, without excuse and without qualification, wherever He may lead us tomorrow?