Jakarta, 30 June 2019
A Christian Pilgrim
IT IS INDEED NOT EASY TO FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST
(A biblical reflection on the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C] – June 30, 2019)
Gospel Reading: Luke 9:51-62
First Reading: 1Kings 19:16,19-21; Psalms: Psalm 16:1-2,5-11; Second Reading: Galatians 5:1,13-18
The Scripture Text
When the days drew near for Him to be received up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem. And He sent messengers ahead of Him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him; but the people would not receive Him, because His face was set toward Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do You want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, a man said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” To another He said, “Follow Me.” But He said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God. (Luke 9:51-62 RSV)
After the death of King Solomon, the Jewish nation divided into two kingdoms with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. In 72 B.C., the Assyrians attacked and captured Israel and sent most (but not all) of the people into exile. Some Jews who remained behind married Assyrian immigrants. Because these people settled in Samaria, we call their descendants Samaritans.
Since the Samaritans were part Jewish and part Assyrian, the Jews despised them and would not allow them to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans responded by declaring their own temple on Mount Gerizim the only place where they could legitimately offer sacrifices to God. The Samaritans also used their own version of the Sacred Scriptures during their religious services.
The animosity between Jews and Samaritans was evident in other ways. Because Samaritans were hostile towards Jews who travelled through Samaria, most Jews would not pass through Samaritan territory even if doing so would have saved them several days of travel. Jews who did take a shortcut usually shook the dust from their feet before entering Jewish land so they wouldn’t contaminate Jewish land with Samaritan dirt. This tension between these two peoples explains why the Samaritan did not welcome Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Today’s Gospel reading ends with a story about three potential followers. Jesus reminds one man that foxes have lairs and birds have nests but He and His apostles have nowhere to live. Being wandering preachers, Jesus and the apostles must have spent many nights sleeping under the stars instead of in a warm, comfortable house. Jesus asks the man if he is willing to give up the security of having a roof over his head in order to be a disciple.
The second man want to bury his father first, a father who some biblical scholars think was not dead or even close to death. They suggests the man’s excuse most likely means something like, “I can’t follow you while my father is still alive, but someday he’ll be dead and then I’ll join you.” Jesus rejects this response and challenges the man to put discipleship before everything else, even family.
The third man wants to return home to put his affairs in order. This man is like a farmer who, while plowing his field, risks hitting a large rock or some other obstacle because he keeps looking back. The farmer might hurt himself or damage his plow because he is distracted. We, too, must set our sights on Jesus and not let worldly successes or material possessions divert our attention from our heavenly goal.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 294-295.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, through baptism You call us to follow You. It is indeed easy for us to offer words “I will be Your follower/disciple wherever You go”. Please let the Holy Spirit guide us so we can be sure that we know what is required. And, help us not to let anything else preventing us from being a more committed disciples, e.g. security, family, success, etc. We also realize that we cannot force others to follow You, so we pray for a patient love. Amen.
Jakarta, 28 June 2019 [Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus]
A Christian Pilgrim
Each has his own basilica in Rome. This is an old feast because it commemorates the death of neither Peter nor Paul. It comes from the 300’s to recall a day when a joint feast was established.
Peter and Paul represent two complementary dimensions of the Church. Peter maintains the traditions; Paul represents the drive to adapt, expand and amplify the Gospel. Peter is the centripetal force that seeks the center; Paul is the centrifugal force that reaches to embrace different cultures and perhaps, one day, different planets.
The Church needs both. Without the centering of Peter, the Church would have been a loose collection of fragmented sects. Without the expansive force of Paul, the Church would have stayed a Jewish group in Jerusalem.
The same is true of our spiritual lives. Peter holds us to our center – the core of our faith which is our relationship with all the changes of our life. With Paul, we gather new insights and new understandings of discipleship and of our Lord. Sometimes, we develop new spiritual practices as the seasons of our life change.
What is true of the Church is true of our individual selves: we have to change to keep our ancient faith a living thing.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, You give us he great joy of devoting this day to the honor of the apostles Peter and Paul. Grant that Your Church may follow their teaching to the full, because these are the men who first taught us to worship You in Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 29 June 2019
A Christian Pilgrim
John the Baptist was a revered figure in the early Church. In the Middle Ages, hundreds of religious groups and churches were placed under his patronage. Many follower of the Lord originally been disciples of the Baptist. Many remained followers of the Baptist even after his death.
John represents the continual need we have for repentance to prepare for the irruption of God’s presence into our lives. Secondly, John’s whole mission in life was to point the way to Christ. That is very much the heart of the Christian vocation. Paul tells us that John set the stage, Isaiah speaks about a mysterious suffering servant which the Church has always identified as Christ but which we take here as referring to John as well. “I called you … though you thought it was ll in vain … now you will have glory through me.”
Each of us is created for a purpose. Our genes come from our parents. Our unique identity comes from God. We can never list all the events we set in motion. Like John, we bring people to the light in ways we cannot anticipate. If we carry a burden, experience a tragedy or have seen the seamy side of life – these can be ways that we are able to connect with others. We all have the power to enlarge the lives of others, heal their wounds and assist them through complex problems.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give Your people grace to enter on the way of salvation. As they hearken to the voice of John, the Lord’s herald, bring them safely to Jesus, whom John foretold. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 24 June 2019
A Christian Pilgrim