Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 9: 51 – 62

To read the gospelwith an open mind is to see beyond all possibilities of doubt that You, Jesus, came to bring us, not only a new life, but also, a new physical power of acting upon our world.

If it is true, that the development of the world can be influenced by our faith in Christ, then Lord let this power flow through your Word to us and though us.

Speak Lord, your servant is listening.
You have the words of eternal life.

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Today’s reading marks a dramatic change in the life of Jesus. Up to now Luke has situated his gospel in Galilee. Now we see Jesus making the courageous decision to go to Jerusalem. Two themes run through this text, determination and compassion. Very often we have difficulty in striking a balance between our own enthusiasm for the Kingdom and what people are able to respond to. Jesus gives us a good example of how to accomplish this balance.

On his way from Galilee to Jerusalem Jesus had to pass through Samaria. Now there was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans and there was no way that at Samaritan village would give hospitality to Jews on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate a religious festival.

51Now as the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, he resolutely took the road to Jerusalem 52and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, 53but the people would not receive him because he was making his way to Jerusalem.  54Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55But he turned and rebuked them, 56and they went off to another village.

Do not be surprised at the behaviour of James and John. They already had a reputation for being firebrands. Their nickname was Sons of thunder. They were also taking a cue from Elijah who had called down fire from heaven to destroy his enemies in this very part of the country. “Let fire come down from heaven and consume both you and our men.”  (2Kg 1: 10)  This is certainly not Jesus way of doing things. He issues a sharp rebuke and then calmly turns and moves off to another village.  Nothing was to be gained by reacting to rejection with violence. The disciples and us will profit by following the example given us here.

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As Jesus continues on his way Luke narrates three incidents from the journey.

57As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to them, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  58Jesus answered, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

59Another to whom he said, “Follow me,” replied, “Let me go and bury my father first.”  60But he answered, “Leave he dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God.”

61Another said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.”  62Jesus said to him, “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

At first glance Jesus seems to take a harsh stance. These three incidents bring home the urgency that Jesus felt for accomplishing his mission to “Go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God.”

The first person is really enthusiastic. The foxes may refer to Herod and his supporters, the birds of the air are possibly the Romans. These are the people of power. If this man is seeking power he had better join them. To follow Jesus is to follow the Son of Man, who aligns himself with the oppressed and powerless.

The second seems rather reluctant. He is in no hurry to join Jesus. He suggests that once Dad has passed on he might think about linking up with Jesus. But, Jesus is in a hurry.  The work of the Kingdom is a matter of great urgency and Jesus does not have the time to hang around while he dithers. Oh, yes, we can so easily fall into the mentality of doing nothing!

To the third person Jesus makes it quite clear that he requires a single-minded commitment to carrying on the mission given us by God.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6: 46)

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