Father Donald Senior, CP

June 26: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 15, 2022

Jerusalem my destiny

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.

After a string of beautiful feasts — Pentecost, Ascension, Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi — the liturgical calendar settles down to “ordinary time.” As will be the case for the rest of the liturgical year, the Gospel selection is from the Gospel of Luke, which sets the tone for the readings this Sunday.

At a turning point in Jesus’ ministry as portrayed by Luke, Jesus “sets his face for Jerusalem”; the literal translation of the original Greek that is more graphic than the translation we hear today, “he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”  As Jesus declares his commitment to this journey, Luke notes that several would-be disciples state that, before following Jesus on this journey, they have other pressing family obligations to which they must first attend. But Jesus deflects each of them.

This unique Gospel scene reveals the strong emphasis on the city of Jerusalem in Luke. Luke begins the life story of Jesus in Jerusalem and its temple, with the account of the announcement to Zachary and Elizabeth that, despite their old age, they will bear a son, the prophet John who will announce the advent of Jesus the Messiah.

Mary and Joseph, too, find their destiny in Jerusalem. They come from their home in Nazareth because of the Roman census, and in Bethlehem Mary will give birth to Jesus, a moment of joy reflected in the homage of the lowly shepherds who are the first to greet the newborn Messiah. And then we have the lovely scene of the presentation. Mary and Joseph bring their infant son to the Jerusalem temple and are there met by two exemplars of deep Jewish faith, the prophets Simeon and Anna. Simeon takes the child in his arms and sings a beautiful canticle, praising God for fulfilling his promises to Israel by sending a savior. Anna, too, gives thanks to God and tells everyone about this child who will redeem Israel.

Flash forward a few years and Luke again takes us to Jerusalem when Jesus and his family visit the Holy City for Passover. In a startling scene, Jesus stays behind in the city unknown to his parents, interacting with the Jewish teachers in the temple, causing his parents Mary and Joseph acute anxiety. But the young boy Jesus reminds them that, “Did you not know I must be in my father’s house?” 

The scene in today’s Gospel points again to Jerusalem as the focus of Jesus’ mission. Jerusalem, the heart of Judaism, the location of God’s temple — but also the place where Jesus would give his life for the world. Jerusalem would be the locus of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the city he loved and wept over, the city where he would complete his mission, and where, as the risen Christ, he would reassure his frightened disciples. And from Jerusalem he would ascend to his Father, promising to send to his disciples the dynamic Spirit that would take then to the ends of the earth, “beginning here in Jerusalem.”

For Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem becomes a Gospel code for commitment to the mission of Jesus, a mission of healing and compassion, of unlimited mercy, a mission ultimately of giving one’s life that others might live. That is why this commitment is so central that no other commitment, however sacred, can compete with it, not even one’s home or one’s family, the compelling responsibilities that the various would-be disciples in today’s Gospel selection bring forward.

From the point of view of Christian faith, commitment to the Jesus of the Gospels ultimately gives meaning to every other obligation we have as human beings. To home and family, yes, but also to all those in need. We are called, in Pope Francis’s words, to be “missionary disciples,” sometimes having to leave behind the comforts of the familiar to offer compassion and mercy to those beyond our home circle.




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