Learning to be a Disciple
In his homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Father Hanly helps us learn how to be a disciple of Jesus.
Readings for Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
- First Reading: First Kings 19:16-21
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
- Second Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-18
- Gospel: Luke 9:51-62
This Gospel is very, very important. These few sentences are the heart and soul of today’s reading, not only that, but the heart and soul of the whole Gospel.
As you know, the Gospel is according to St Luke. St Luke is the only non-Jew who is quoted with his place in the Gospel, and not only in the Gospel, but in the Acts of the Apostles, as well.
Anyhow, this one could be called: “Learning to walk with Jesus.” It’s eleven sentences. “Learning to walk with Jesus.” Or, which is better perhaps is: “Learning to be a disciple.”
When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
What that is translated to in modern day English is, “When the time is about to come when Jesus returns to the Father.”
He’s very resolute. He’s determined, and he’s determined to journey to Jerusalem. And he’s going to Jerusalem to die, so this is his last journey.
Now, at this time he is a few days away from Jerusalem itself and he has sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village.
The Samaritans were Semites, but they were not Jews. The Jews would be Hebrews. So they were in a sense like brothers and sisters, but not in the real sense. In another sense, the Samaritans represented … well, to put it frankly, the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. They just couldn’t get along.
And when the messengers asked about whether or not Jesus could pass through their territory, the Samaritans said he’s not welcome. But it’s probably because, at that time, no Jew was welcome.
Anyhow, when two of the apostles, James and John saw this, that he was not welcome, they said these famous words:
“Lord, do you
want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
These are fire eaters, these two, James and John. How in God’s name could Jesus manage to do what he’s trying to do? Now what he is trying to do is something quite different.
What he is trying to do is this: that God Himself will be the future, that we must learn to once again turn to Him as our Father. We must turn to Him and put our faith in Him and our trust in Him.
And the only way to change the world is not through violence. Violence has been tried and tried and tried, and all it does is destroy people and places and hopes and dreams, and yet we continue again.
“There will be no violence,” Jesus says to these two guys, “no violence.”
You should remember that, you know. He’s speaking for the Catholic Church as well: no violence, no reason why we should take arms and kill each other. No, we have to find other ways.
Only love. Only love. Jesus says, no violence, only love and service. God’s love. God’s love for us, our love for each other. And service. God’s service to us …
That’s why Jesus comes. He doesn’t come to have his way. He doesn’t come to be popular. He comes to serve us.
And we Christians, what we say is we are the children of God. That means God loves us and we are supposed to love each other.
And God’s service is to us. And we aren’t supposed to get, we are supposed to give. It takes a long time to take that seriously.
Is this how the world is to be saved? Is it to be saved by violence? Violence destroys.
And this is what Jesus says, “You can only be saved by love, you can only be saved by forgiveness, and you can only be saved by serving others, especially the needy and the poor.”
And this is what brings new hope and life to everyone, not just the few who follow Jesus.
And now we have a few responses for those who would follow Jesus to create a new world, because that is the purpose of Jesus’ coming: to create a new world.
As they were
proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And Jesus warns him, it will never be comfortable, as the Son of Man nowhere can he find a place to lay his head.
Then another one comes up and Jesus invites him, he says, “Come, follow me.” But this man has lots of conditions – family, relationships:
“Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
And Jesus says to him (he sounds very cruel):
“Let the dead
bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And what is the kingdom of God?
It’s the presence of God, the love of God. God recognised by us, because God has been here the whole time, it is we who do not think of Him and turn to Him and know that He is here.
And so this is what Jesus says: The kingdom of God, the presence of God, must be proclaimed everywhere.
And another said,
“I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus warns these men. He warns them. It sounds harsh, especially when he says let the dead bury the dead.
But only the complete giving of self to Jesus is acceptable anymore. To proclaim the kingdom of God, the presence of the Lord God, the wonder of His love, that is what we need and that is what we seek.
No one who sets a hand to the plough and looks to what was left behind is fit for His presence, the kingdom of God Himself. And once you put your hand to the plough, there is no turning back, no turning back.
This is a strange road that Jesus opens to us. It is open to all who claim to be followers and disciples of God.
We, too, are on a journey. Through all the events of our daily lives, no matter how silly they look, no matter how wonderful they look, no matter how messed up they look, the events of our lives, the journey, will lead us back to the Lord God.
It is back to the Lord God who made us, back to the Lord God who called us and who insists that we be followers of His Son through baptism.
And now I’d like to make the final word a quote from our beloved Pope Francis, as we dwell upon our own lives as Christians.
“The Lord saves us by His love.”
Remember that, now. We are not saved by one plan after another plan. We are not saved by somebody who gives us a thousand dollars. We are not saved by anything. What saves us, he says, and this is true, we are saved by His love.
“Not with a letter, nor with a decree, but with His love.”
“Salvation,” another word for salvation is healing, “salvation is the recovery of that lost dignity which we lost long ago. But now, because of God, we have found it again.
“Lord, I believe that Your love gives me hope.”
And this is the words of Pope Francis.
And the final one:
Believe it or not, we are all called to build up the kingdom, to build up the kingdom of God, to follow Jesus’ lead.
And, of course, you have to give, not part of yourself, not three quarters of yourself, you have to give your whole self.
And once you have given everything, you become rich in the joy and happiness of Jesus and the new kingdom.