It’s only been a few weeks since we closed our Easter season. Yet in today’s gospel, Jesus is beginning his journey to Jerusalem. It is the journey that fills most of our days as we follow Jesus in our ordinary ways. On the way, the disciples find no welcome for Jesus in the Samaritan village they enter. But Jesus reprimands his disciples who call for retribution. His way is one of non-violence; he remains focused on his mission. They continue on without pause.
As the journey continues, three would-be disciples approach Jesus; two ask to follow him, one is invited to do so. Their “yes, but” responses seems like reasonable ones: caring for their families first. It was the same request that Elisha made of the Elijah in the first reading. In response, the prophet said as much as, “Go on. Don’t let me stand in your way.”
But Jesus’ responses are a bit more cryptic. He does not deny the would-be followers their wish. Nor does he judge the sincerity of their desire. But in images that are familiar to them, Jesus makes clear what more will be asked of a follower of his. It is an apt continuation of last Sunday’s gospel, when Jesus instructed his friends: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Perhaps it is today’s second reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, where we find the key to understanding Jesus’ puzzling responses on the road. Paul tells us, “You were called for freedom… [to] serve one other through love.” It is our free response that Jesus desires as we pledge to follow him. Following Christ is not a freedom from responsibility, nor a response made out of obligation. Ours is a free choice to follow his example and to love God and the dear neighbor. It is a free choice to embrace his mission and proclaim the Kingdom of God. It is a freedom realized when we give ourselves away in love.
We 21st-century followers of Jesus know where the road leads: it leads to the cross. We, too, know what we find on the way: our own rejection, exhaustion, hurt, poverty of place and loss of relationship. But we also know our commitment to Christ centers our lives; it is where we find our rest and our certainty of life’s purpose.
- How committed am I to following Jesus?
- Choose a practical way this week to “serve one another through love.”
–by Sr. Mary Flick csj