Wednesday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.”
Reading 1 JB 9:1-12, 14-16
Job answered his friends and said:
I know well that it is so;
but how can a man be justified before God?
Should one wish to contend with him,
he could not answer him once in a thousand times.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength;
who has withstood him and remained unscathed?
He removes the mountains before they know it;
he overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth out of its place,
and the pillars beneath it tremble.
He commands the sun, and it rises not;
he seals up the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads upon the crests of the sea.
He made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south;
He does great things past finding out,
marvelous things beyond reckoning.
Should he come near me, I see him not;
should he pass by, I am not aware of him;
Should he seize me forcibly, who can say him nay?
Who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
How much less shall I give him any answer,
or choose out arguments against him!
Even though I were right, I could not answer him,
but should rather beg for what was due me.
If I appealed to him and he answered my call,
I could not believe that he would hearken to my words.
Responsorial PsalmPS 88:10BC-11, 12-13, 14-15
Daily I call upon you, O LORD;
to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work wonders for the dead?
Will the shades arise to give you thanks?
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Do they declare your mercy in the grave,
your faithfulness among those who have perished?
Are your wonders made known in the darkness,
or your justice in the land of oblivion?
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
with my morning prayer I wait upon you.
Why, O LORD, do you reject me;
why hide from me your face?
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Alleluia PHIL 3:8-9
I consider all things so much rubbish
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 9:57-62
As Jesus and his disciples 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 to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
This “let the dead bury the dead” remark is one of those passages that has troubled many Christians. It is one that we have to look at spiritually, and not so much in the physical realm. Honoring ones father, we would assume would include burying him after he has died, but the body no longer contains the spiritual essence of who the father was, and the person we were to honor in life. This is very similar to the way the Hebrews killed many of their prophets because they didn’t like their message, and then built shrines to them later on. And this is one of the reasons that Jesus lamented over Jerusalem as we are told in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34.
Matt 23:37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
The shrine did not truly honor the prophet; it just was a way of a future generation to try to appease their guilt for scapegoating an innocent person. This kind of action and response shows a spiritual deadness in the people, which is key to our understanding the passage before us.
When we look at the situation surrounding our passage, as recorded in Matthew 8:18-23 and Luke 9:57-62, we see that people are seeking the “glamour” of following Jesus or there were other things thing that came before their desire to follow Him, for which Jesus gives several responses. All of which were designed to show the degree of commitment that is required to be a true follower of God.
“Let the dead bury the dead”
Commentary on Luke 9:57-62 From Living Space
Today’s passage has to be seen in the light of yesterday’s. Jesus has reached an important stage in his public life and mission. He is now irrevocably on his way to Jerusalem and all that that means for him – and us.
But he does not want to go alone. His whole purpose is to have people go with him. Already there are his disciples but there will be more. Today we see three “candidates” coming forward with a lot of good will but Jesus makes them aware of what following him really means. Their responses to Jesus’ remarks are not given so we do not know whether they became followers or not. The point Luke is making is to show what following entails.
- The first says very generously that he will go wherever Jesus is going. Jesus answers: “Foxes have their lairs and the birds of the air their nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
These words of Jesus indicate not poverty or indigence but freedom. To follow Jesus fully one needs to be free, not to be tied down by anything and not to be anxious about having or not having things.
There is no evidence that Jesus was poor in the sense of being deprived of the necessities of life. He did not own a house but it is never even hinted that he had to sleep out in the open air. He belonged to a group of people who more than willingly shared what they had with him.
- The second man was actually invited by Jesus to be a follower. But he asked first to be allowed to go and bury his father. This does not mean that his father had just died and he wanted to attend the funeral. It is more likely that he wanted, as a dutiful son, to wait for his father’s death before going off with Jesus.
But that is not good enough. The call of Jesus transcends needs of family, tradition and culture. The needs of the living outweigh those of the dead. His father might not die for years; what was the man supposed to do in the meantime?
Once we are aware of Jesus’ call the only time to answer is now. In spite of that, we should not read these lines too rigidly. Clearly, for example, there would be times when one would want to be present at the death of a parent, especially to provide support for the grieving spouse. That would be in total harmony with respect for parents and love for the neighbour. But the man in the example is in a totally different situation. He is talking about an event in the future whose time and place are not known.
- Another would-be follower asked first for permission to go home and say goodbye to his family. It was similar to a request made by Elisha when he was called to succeed Elijah as prophet. Elijah’s answer was, “Go ahead.”
- So what we have here seems a very reasonable request but it is rejected by Jesus who says, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Like Jesus himself turning his face towards Jerusalem and all that it means for him, once the decision has been made to serve God and his people, there can be no turning back. Again, the words of Jesus should not be taken literally.
Read in that way, they would be totally at variance with the loving and compassionate quality of Jesus’ character. The point that is being made in all three examples is the absoluteness, the unconditionally that is required in the following of Jesus. It is a theme which is emphasised more than once in Luke’s gospel. We cannot be fence-sitters, to have our cake and eat it. Being a follower of Jesus can never be a part-time affair. It is all or nothing. At the same time, the demands of agape-love are always there. It is a matter each time of discerning where the truly loving act lies.
If we are honest, a lot of us are like these men in our following of Christ and in the living out of our faith. We do have our material wants (distinct from needs), we feel we cannot live without “our little comforts in life”.
Let us pray today for a high degree of freedom in being able to accept unconditionally God’s will for us. To have that freedom is one of the greatest blessings and graces of our life.
When Jesus calls, our response must be immediate and total.
Art: Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann
In the Gospel: Jesus invites us to follow Him. But he makes it clear we shouldn’t get bogged down by the customs and work and goodies of this world.
“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
My priest friend says, “The devil wants us thinking about the past and ourselves. God wants us thinking about others and the future.”
So why do we over eat?
We want to feel good.
We want to consume the abundance of our modern abundant world. The entire American economy is based upon “consumer spending.”
Americans consume more food, electricity, water and just about everything else more than just about all people on the globe today.
And we make more trash than any civilization ever on this earth. And that’s not even counting all the trashy Hollywood films we churn out…
We are all users, takers and consumers. And I’m not leaving myself out here: I am as bad as any other American from what we used to call “White Middle Class.”
We are “the feel good people.”
And we want no pain or suffering — for ourselves. We are always first thinking about ourselves.
And if pain knocks on our door: screw that. We have drugs for that.
Drugs for anxiety. Drugs for depression. Drugs for “I just don’t feel right.”
It is almost as if Americans feel entitled to take more and more of this world and its resources — and without feeling any pain, guilt, anxiety or anguish.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about anguish:
Anguish is a term used in philosophy, often as a translation from the Latin for angst. It is a paramount feature ofexistentialist philosophy, in which anguish is often understood as the experience of an utterly free being in a world with zero absolutes (existential despair). In the theology of Kierkegaard, it refers to a being with total free will who is in a constant state of spiritual fear that his freedom will lead him to fall short of the standards that God has laid out for him.
In the teachings of Sartre, anguish is seen when an utterly captured being realizes the unpredictability of his or her action. For an example, when walking along a cliff, you would feel anguish to know that you have the freedom to throw yourself down to your imminent death.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19)
In the Bible, neither Jesus nor the God of the Old Testament ever says you will feel no pain. We invented that for ourselves.
Most Americans are fine with abortion: infanticide. Most people in America are fine with sex of all kinds — sex on demand.
The Supreme Court spoke on this very subject on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.
It’s our right. It’s legal.
So that is the Supreme Court.
Supreme for whom?
There will be an accounting. “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.” (Genesis 9:5)
The first book of the bible talks about an accounting.
I used to have a friend who often said: “When you’re standing naked before the Lord…”
When I am standing naked before the Lord, my first thought will likely be: “I should go on a died.”
My second thought will surely be: “I should have done more for others.”
But by then it will be too late. And the devil is the one who wants us thinking about the past — and ourselves.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
(I’ll go wherever you will go, “The Calling.”)
● In today’s Gospel the long and hard journey of Jesus continues from the periphery of Galilee toward the capital city. Leaving Galilee, Jesus enters in Samaria and continues toward Jerusalem. But not all understand him. Many abandon him, because the demands are enormous. But others get close to him and present themselves to follow Jesus. At the beginning of his pastoral activity in Galilee, Jesus had called three: Peter, James and John (Lk 5, 8-11). Here also, in Samaria there are three persons who present themselves or who are called. In the responses of Jesus there are the requirements or conditions in order to be able to be his disciples.
● Luke 9, 56-58: The first one of the three new disciples. At that time, as they travelled along, they met a man who said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go”. Jesus answered: “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head”. To this first person who wants to be his disciple, Jesus asks him to divest himself of everything: he has nowhere to lay his head; much less should he seek a false security where to lay the thoughts of his head.
● Luke 9, 59-60: The second one of the three new disciples. To another one he says “Follow me”. And he replied, “Let me go and bury my father first”. Jesus replied: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God”. To this second person called by Jesus to follow Him, he asks him to leave the dead bury the dead. It is a question of a popular saying used to say: leave aside the things of the past. Do not lose time with what happened and look ahead. After having discovered the new life in Jesus, the disciple should not lose time with what has happened.
● Luke 9, 61-62: The third one of the three new disciples. “Another said: I will follow you, Sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home”. But Jesus replied: once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God”. To this third person called to be a disciple, Jesus asks to break the family bonds of union. On another occasion he had said: Anyone who loves his father and his mother more than me cannot be my disciple (Lk 14, 26; Mt 10, 37). Jesus is more demanding than the Prophet Elijah who allowed Elisha to greet and take leave from his parents (1 K 19, 19-21). This also means to break the nationalistic bonds of race and the patriarchal family structure.
● These are three fundamental requirements as necessary conditions for those who want to be the disciples of Jesus: (a) to abandon material goods, (b) not to be attached to personal goods lived and accumulated in the past (c) to break away from the family bonds. In reality, nobody, even wishing it, can break neither the family bonds, nor break away from things lived in the past. What is asked is to know how to re-integrate everything (material goods, personal life and family life) in a new way around the new axis which is Jesus and the Good News of God which he has brought to us.
● Jesus himself, lived and became aware of what he was asking to his followers. With his decision to go up to Jerusalem Jesus reveals his project. His journey toward Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51 a 19, 27) is represented as the undertaking (Lk 9, 51), the exodus (Lk 9, 31) or the crossing (Lk 17, 11). Arriving in Jerusalem Jesus fulfils the exodus, the undertaking or the definitive crossing from this world toward the Father (Jn 13, 1). Only a truly free person can do this, because such an exodus presupposes to dedicate one’s whole life for the brothers (Lk 23, 44-46; 24, 51). This is the exodus, the crossing, the undertaking of which the communities should become aware in order to be able to carry on Jesus’ project.
● Compare each one of these three requirements with your life.
● Which are the problems that arise in your life as a consequence of the decision which you have taken to follow Jesus?
Yahweh, you examine me and know me,
you know when I sit,
when I rise,
you understand my thoughts from afar. (Ps 139,1-2)
What is the real problem with the Catholic Church today? We have many members but very few disciples of Christ. Many want to get baptized but few live a life of Christian discipleship after baptism. Most are Sunday or nominal Catholics. Yes, they come to church but they are not fired up for Christ and His kingdom. Some join the Church like a club house for fellowship and socializing. Others do so just in case they need God or in case they get punished in the next life. Many are occasional visitors to the church although they are “members.” They come on sentimental occasions like Christmas and Good Friday. Beyond that they do not have any real relationship with the Lord, nor are they involved in the proclamation of the Good News, either in words or deeds.
When you have a Church with members who are belong to one of the three categories or all of them in the gospel, the Church cannot grow. The growth of the Church in the past was all due to those who had a deep faith in the Lord. They were willing to sacrifice everything for Christ and the gospel. The many missionaries who brought the faith beyond Europe sacrificed their lives and their loved ones for the sake of the gospel, even when faced with persecution and death. Consider all the beautiful basilicas and churches built in Europe, many of them took more 100 years to build! It was not constructed in a matter of years but in 100s, and yet the Catholics slowly, patiently, perseveringly built them. Such was their faith and devotion to God, Christ and the gospel.
Perhaps, the greatest weakness of the Catholic Church is that we have lowered our bar too low for Christian discipleship. We have made too little demands on our members and potential members. We want to take in everybody, the lame, the blind, the dumb, the tax-collectors, the prostitutes but we are not ready to challenge them at the same time to live out the radical life of being a Christian. Indeed, Christ welcomed all sinners but He did not simply tell them that they could continue with their old way of life. On the contrary, in no uncertain terms, He spoke of the cost of discipleship. He did not couch His expectations and demands in nice words and political correctness. His demands were sharp, clear, demanding and non-compromising. This is clearly illustrated in the three would be disciples in today’s gospel.
To the first man who wanted to follow the Lord, Jesus answered, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Many of us never count the cost and the sacrifices that we have to undertake before embarking on anything. We only look at the frills, the privileges, the honor and the fun but fail to take into consideration the sacrifices, commitment and demands. Many young people entering into relationships only think of enjoying physical intimacy, but never ask whether they are ready for emotional and intellectual intimacy. Many get married, thinking only of romance, but never looked at other married couples, how they are struggling in their marriages. The truth is that in a marital relationship, there is more to the romance between two persons; there are other elements involved: children, in-laws and siblings, besides finance, housing, education, values, religion, work, illnesses, etc. When we consider all these challenges, the romance will fly out of the window. Equally true for those who desire positions in life and aspire to high offices. Little do they know that heavy is the head that wears the crown! With heavy responsibilities on your shoulders, you might not be able to have time for your loved ones, much less for God! So we seek prestige and position in life only to realize that we cannot handle the stress, the demands and the sacrifices needed. When their marriage and family life fail, including their health, they will regret.
So too in Church ministry, whether as volunteers or workers, there is commitment! When a person is newly baptized, even before he learns to wean off milk, we put him into Church ministry and even in positions of responsibility. He does not know what it is like to work in a community of sinners waiting to become saints. When he meets with difficulties, rejection and disagreements, he becomes resentful and leaves the Church completely because the little faith he has cannot sustain him. Of course, this applies especially to those who want to work in the Church. They think that working in the Church is like working in paradise. It is more like purgatory and hell because they will be purified by those whom they serve, suffering humiliation, being misunderstood, betrayed and rejected. They will have to suffer loneliness and even ostracized. So, this is what Jesus was telling the man. Think of the demands and sacrifices before you ask for discipleship!
So what is the problem? This is because God is not the center of our life. That was why when the second man who was asked by the Lord to follow Him, asked for permission to look after his father till death first, the response of Jesus was swift. “Leave the dead to bury the dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.” Jesus was not teaching him to be irresponsible and neglect his filial responsibilities. Rather, He was telling him to place God first in His life. Only then will everything fall into place. When we give our total commitment to God, then we will know where to place our priorities and how to love our parents, spouse, children, friends, colleagues. Everything must revolve around Christ. Because when we love God above all, we too will love them as much as God loves them. But when God is second or right at the bottom of the scale, we will manipulate and abuse those people whom we love and are under our care.
So if we want to be fully alive as a Christian, then we must focus our eyes on the Lord. We must never take our eyes off Him in whatever we do. If we do not do that, then our lives will become a mess. Jesus told the third man, “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” We must not allow our attachment to our will and to the things of this world to prevent us from following the ways of God. Quite often, it is our attachment to our old way of life that makes us turn back from the Lord. Many of us fall back to our old ways of life, especially when the journey is tough. Singular mindedness is necessary if we are to do anything well in life. The lack of focus and perseverance is the cause of many failures. A Christian therefore will not allow anything to side track him in following the gospel way of life.
In the light of all that we have said, the question we must ask ourselves with regard to the apathy of faith among Catholics is whether we have compromised too much. Have we set our bar too low, thinking that we should not exact too much from them? As a consequence, we have unwittingly allowed the minority to influence the majority. Even the strong sheep, after some time, will follow the weak and stray sheep. Most of the problems we face in the Church today is due to the fact that we did not get it right from the start. We relaxed Church discipline with regards to attire, marriage, the prerequisites for baptism and the other sacraments, etc. Whilst we must be compassionate, it does not mean compromising our principles and our gospel values. The Church has given too much away so much so we are left with very little to inspire, to challenge and to evoke the holiness, truth and beauty of the Church. We have underestimated our Catholics’ ability to give much more than what they are doing now for their faith.
Today, we have the example of Job who gave his total commitment to the Lord even in those moments of suffering. He could not understand the ways of God but he knew that he could not fight against God and His divine plans. So even when he could not understand why he had to suffer innocently, he submitted to God’s will. Job was realistic and he accepted the cost of discipleship, which is to be committed to the Lord in faith until the very end.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Tags: "Follow me", do not be afraid, I will follow you wherever you go, JB 9:1-12 14-16, Job 9:1-12 14-16, Let my prayer come before you Lord, Let the dead bury their dead, lk 9:57-62, PHIL 3:8-9, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 88, September 28 2016, spiritually, who is it we want to honor in life