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JUNE 30, 2013: THIRTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

I Kings 19:16b, 19-21
Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Luke 9:51-62

Luke is famous for his "journey narratives." In both his gospel and his Acts of the Apostles, he almost always has someone "on the road." We're familiar with Joseph and Mary's trip to Bethlehem and Paul's three missionary journeys, but many of us don't even notice the first line of today's gospel pericope. "When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him." Between now and his chapter 19 entrance into Jerusalem, Luke's Jesus and his disciples are constantly on the road to the Holy City.

Luke's theology revolves around what happens to Jesus in Jerusalem. It's there he suffers, dies, rises, and sends the Holy Spirit. The evangelist believes all followers of Jesus are on the same journey. Throughout our lives, we're constantly suffering, dying, rising and receiving the Holy Spirit. We're daily on the road to our individual Jerusalems. That's why what happens to Jesus and his disciples during the next 10 chapters is so significant. Luke is showing his readers how, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they're to suffer and die in their quest to rise as other Christs.

As the journey begins, the evangelist reminds us to let nothing stop us from eventually arriving at our destination. Distractions will not be tolerated, especially from those who don't want us to be on the road to Jerusalem in the first place. James and John's suggestion on dealing with the inhospitable Samaritans demonstrates that Jesus' disciples should be known for their determination to finish the journey, not for seeking revenge on their enemies.

The faith-question is simple: are we committed enough to actually follow through on Jesus' demands? Though we might be willing to follow him "wherever (he) goes," are we able to imitate someone who" has nowhere to rest his head?" Might be a little rough having no shield from the "elements" of the world.

But even more demanding is Jesus' command to the prospective disciple, "Let the dead bury their dead!" Students of Scripture presume the man isn't on his way to a funeral home to arrange services for his recently deceased father. The request, "Let me go first and bury my father," simply implies his living father would object to his son's becoming a follower of Jesus. The man's basically asking Jesus to give him a "pass" on discipleship until his father dies, then, after he buries him, he'll join in proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Against all Jewish tradition - and even counter to Elijah's permitting Elisha to "go and kiss my father and mother goodbye" - Jesus doesn't give any of us such a pass. His call to become other Christs is immediate and total. He expects us to respond to it even in the face of opposition from those closest to us.

Paul saw his total commitment to the risen Jesus as the most freeing decision he ever made. That's why he couldn't understand why some in his Galatian community had gone back on that decision and decided to find salvation in keeping the 613 Laws of Moses. As a follower of Jesus, he was convinced only one law was necessary for truly free people: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Though a practicing Jew himself - a keeper of the 613 laws - the Apostle had discovered he didn't need Jesus' Spirit to maintain those specific regulations. The Holy Spirit only kicked in when you made the free choice to give yourself to others. After all, Jesus' Jerusalem journey wasn't to a geographical place, but to a relationship - with him and others.