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