To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:
We’re reading the Gospel of Luke the Sundays of this year. At the beginning of his gospel, St.Luke promises to put down in an orderly way the events that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. As we listen to his account he wants us to realize that what we hear Jesus say to his disciples and to others he says to us. When we hear what happens to Jesus we are also hearing what happens to us.
In the 9th chapter of his gospel, part of which we read this Sunday, Luke describes a crucial turning point in the life of Jesus. After teaching and healing and performing wonders for a time in Galilee, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Then, he asks them, “Who do you say I am?” Of course, Luke wants us to face that same question too. “Who do we say Jesus is?”
Jesus then announces he must go up to Jerusalem. Listen to the way Luke describes his decision “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.” This is a journey when the days for Jesus being taken up were fulfilled. In other words, this is a journey when Jesus will pass from this world to his Father. He is journeying to Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise again. He will be “taken up.”
And he doesn’t make this journey alone. At this point in the gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to follow him, Luke says, but the evangelist wants us know that he’s calling everybody to follow him, not just a designated few. Greater than Elijah, Jesus gives his mantle to many followers who’ll share his journey and they’re taken up with him to share his reward, and he sends messengers ahead of him to gather as many as they can.
There’s a simple criteria Jesus gives for following him. “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” he says in Luke’s gospel. It’s an everyday cross he wants us to take up, not the cross of wood that he himself bore; it’s not nails in our hands and feet or scourges on our back that we’re asked to bear. It’s the everyday cross that we carry all the time, wherever we are. It’s the cross we carry on our journey of life, all our life. Sometimes it comes from ourselves, from sickness, or old age, or disappointments, or worry, or the constant pressures of living everyday. Sometimes it comes from the world we live in with its violence and uncertainties. It’s always there and Jesus tells us to carry it.
In today’s gospel the Lord says something more about following him; some of what he says we may find hard to understand. For example, what does he say to the man who wants to bury his father before following him? “Let the dead bury their dead.” What does he say to the one who wants to say goodbye to his family first? “ “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what’s left behind is fit for the kingdom of heaven.” Sounds hard and unreasonable, doesn’t it?
Hard and unreasonable, until we see how important it is to follow Jesus. If life is a journey, and it is, where are we going? Do we think this is all there is? If life is a journey, do we make it alone? If life is a journey, does it stop at death? If it doesn’t stop at death, who will take us beyond it? If life is a journey from this world to another world, who will be with us all days to bring us to that world?
We can see how important it is to follow Jesus Christ?
Some, of course, think he makes no difference. They can go it alone. Some think Christ is just a “back-up,” when you need him he’ll be there. Some think he brings power and success for living here and now. But look at what he says in today’s gospel: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Jesus doesn’t assure us of a nice house or a good living. In today’s gospel, too, his disciples want to set fire on the Samaritans who refuse them hospitality, but Jesus turns his back on them.
For the next four months our Sunday gospels are mostly from the journey narrative of Luke. We will be hearing what Jesus says to those he meets on the journey. Let’s listen as if he’s speaking to us. On the way to Jerusalem Jesus calls followers. None of them are perfect, by any means. In Luke’s narrative it’s the lost sheep, the prodigal children, the forgotten poor, a blind man on the road, a crooked tax collector who follow him. He calls us too. Let’s listen to him.
We’ll hear warnings in the weeks ahead which we should take to heart. “You are a fool,” God says to the man who thinks only about building bigger barns. Let’s listen to him. We’ll hear about stopping and helping others, as the Good Samaritan did. Let’s listen to him.