Galatians 5:1, 13 – 18, Luke 9:51 – 62
The readings today are about call and mission. Jesus is traveling with his Apostles. They had left their families, livelihoods and possessions to be with Jesus. This is what Jesus expects of those who he calls to follow him. Jesus and his Apostles encounter three others who desire to follow him. To the first Jesus makes it clear that to be his follower is not to have a comfortable and permanent place to live; the second has the condition of delaying until after he buries his father. One Scripture commentary speculates that the man’s father might not even have been dead, or near death, and that this was just a delay tactic. Jesus challenges him on his desire to follow, if he is to follow he must come immediately. The third wants to go back and give his farewells to family and friends. Jesus make the point that for those who desire to follow him it is a call to move forward, there is no turning back. The call of the Apostles and the response to these three would-be followers makes it clear that to follow Jesus one must be willing to make a total commitment.
For those called to Priesthood and the numerous forms of Consecrated Life this means a willingness to serve where needed, and to do so in a simple, humble, and committed manner. For those in consecrated life this means the renunciation of possessions by living a life of poverty. For those living a vocation of marriage and the single life it involves putting Christ First. This might sound harsh, especially when family, friends and profession are involved, but by putting Jesus first we are blessed with the gifts and grace to love and serve our family and friends more than we could before, for we see all other people and things through his vision.
The Gospel first of all reminds us of the importance of the call that each of us has, and our need to live it seriously and with a true sense of commitment. The second lesson in this Gospel involves the mission of Jesus’ followers. Jesus plans on stopping in a Samaritan town on his way to Jerusalem. This was a somewhat radical act on the part of Jesus. Jews and Samaritans despised each other, and the Samaritans would not show hospitality to a Jew on his way to Jerusalem. This is why the parable of the Good Samaritan was such a difficult one for the Scribes and Pharisees to hear, because the good guy was a Samaritan. Jesus is not welcomed there, and the apostles want to send down fire to destroy the town. Jesus rebuked them for that and they moved on to another town.
Jesus shows us that the mission of his followers is to proclaim the kingdom of God, and of showing mercy to those, not yet ready to receive it. Jesus knew that in all likelihood he would not be welcome in the Samaritan town, but he did not make the decision for them by avoiding them, he attempted to enter there. He was ready to announce the Good News, even where it seemed it would not be welcomed. He did not react to rejection with punishment, he gave them more time to hopefully come around and accept him. The lesson for us is to take advantage of opportunities to announce the Good News, share why our faith is important to us, and give an example of love and mercy when it is not well received. We are called, and we are sent forth. May we do so with the presence of Jesus in our hearts.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.