Father Donald Senior, CP

June 30: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Life Journey

1 Kgs 19:16, 19-21; Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11; Gal 5:1, 13-18; Lk 9:51-62

Portraying human life as a journey is one of the oldest and most important metaphors in the Bible, as it is in other literature. The epic journey of Ulysses is at the heart of a Greek classic. “Pilgrim’s Progress” also presents human life unfolding as a journey. The story of Israel’s ancestors begins with the journey of Abraham, called by God to set out from his homeland in Ur for a land of destiny, and so the story of God’s people would begin. 

Another fateful journey would take place as God directs Moses to lead a people bound in slavery in Egypt to set out on an arduous desert journey to a land of promise. Centuries later, at another wrenching moment in Israel’s history, God would prompt a powerful world ruler, Cyrus of Persia, to let the people return to their homeland and rebuild.

The components of a journey fit defining experiences of life: choosing a destination; deciding what baggage to take and what to leave behind; the unexpected turns and twists that take place even in well-planned travel; and finally arriving where you sought to go. Even 21st century journeys — most of them less strenuous than those of our ancestors — still involve challenges and demand endurance.

The Gospel writers were well aware of this heritage and, as we see in this Sunday’s passage from the Gospel of Luke, portray Jesus’ life and mission as a journey, and view discipleship as following Jesus on a journey. 

At a crucial moment in his mission, Jesus literally “set his face toward Jerusalem.” Luke adds drama to the moment by having Jesus send messengers ahead of him to announce the onset of the journey. When Jesus passes through a hostile Samaritan village that refuses to welcome him, his disciples James and John earn their nickname “sons of thunder” by asking Jesus if he wanted to “call down fire from heaven to consume them.” This demonstrated that they were out of step already on this journey of Jesus. 

Luke appends to this beginning journey a series of scenes where would-be disciples are challenged by Jesus. The first declares he is ready “to follow you wherever you go” and Jesus reminds him “the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” To journey with Jesus can mean leaving behind some of our securities and comfort zone. 

When Jesus invites another person to follow him, the man reasonably asks “to go first and bury my father,” which is one of Judaism’s sacred responsibilities. To underscore the priority of discipleship over all other obligations, Jesus challenges him to “let the dead bury the dead.”

Finally, another pleads, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home” (echoing the plea of Elisha in the first reading for today). Again, Jesus rebuffs what seems like a very ordinary and humane request — “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

There are moments — an anniversary, a reunion — when we stop and think about the life journey we have been on. We think of the unexpected turns, people and experiences that have shaped us. The joys we recall with a smile and the losses still burn in our hearts. “It’s been quite a journey,” we might say to a friend. 

The Scriptures for today invite us to go deep into the pattern of our lives and to realize that we are on a journey that will ultimately lead us to God. The gift of life that brought us to this moment is a pure gift of the God to whom we are being led.

Jesus in the Gospel today challenges would-be disciples to consider what is the most important reality of their lives. Surely that includes loving one’s family and the blessings of health and meaningful work. But deeper still is being aware of God’s abiding love for us and striving to be true to the gift of faith that ultimately will bring us home.


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