I’m preaching a parish mission at Our Lady of the Isle in Shelter Island, NY today till Tuesday evening and I’ll be commenting each morning after Mass and in the evening at 7PM on parts of Luke’s gospel, the gospel we’re reading most Sundays this year in church.
Tonight it will be on the Journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, which Luke begins in Chapter 9 and continues to the 19th chapter, when Jesus reaches the Holy City. “When the days for him to be taken up were fulfilled (Jesus) resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9,51-19,28) In preceding chapters, Luke recalled Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. (Luke 4,13-9, 50)
Luke isn’t concerned with a neat catalogue of miles traveled or places reached in describing Jesus’ journey. This is the time he gathers and instructs disciples, who accompany him on the way to Jerusalem and, after his ascension into heaven, bring his message to the ends of the world. Not only the twelve go with him, but “great crowds” follow him besides “a further seventy-two.” (Luke 14,25; 10,1-14); Luke doesn’t forget that women are among them. (Luke 23,49)
Jesus meets opposition throughout his journey. His own town of Nazareth opposed him as he began his Galilean ministry. Now the Samaritans turn back his messengers at the start of this journey. (Luke 9,53-56) Opposition continues as he goes on his way. The Pharisees ensconced in their synagogues pour their criticism on him. (Luke 11, 37-43) Others are too preoccupied with riches or too caught in their own interests to pay him any attention. (Luke 12,16-21)
Some of his new disciples surprise us, like Zacchaeus the chief publican of Jericho, who welcomes Jesus into his house on his journey. (Luke 19,1-10) The poor, like the blind man outside Jericho, are also likely to follow him up the road. (Luke 18,35-43) Luke describes a merciful Jesus on this journey, who searches for the lost sheep and welcomes the prodigal son. (Luke 15,1-32)
Sure to follow Jesus into the kingdom of heaven are the childlike, who don’t cling to power and rank. Luke sees Jesus praising the childlike both in his Galilean ministry (Luke 9,46-48) and on his journey to Jerusalem. (Luke 10, 21; 18.15-17) It’s also a common theme in the gospels of Matthew and Mark who have Jesus pointing to his disciples the example of the child. (Matthew 18.1-5; Mark 9,35-37)
It’s essential that a disciple of Jesus be childlike. (Luke 18,15-17) Is childlikeness the secret of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector from Jericho, the little man who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus passing by?
St. Leo the Great, an early pope, said that becoming like a child does not mean becoming a child physically. We can’t go back. But the childlike can go forward to the kingdom of God, because they’re small enough to pass through the narrow gate.
Becoming a child means to be free from crippling anxieties, to be forgetful of injuries, to be sociable, and look in wonder at all things.
Tomorrow I’m going to comment on the Passion narrative from Luke’s Gospel. On the journey to God, Jesus must pass through death. His disciples will accompany him.
Tuesday evening, I’ll talk on the Resurrection narrative from Luke.