13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C

Meaning of Follow

Joke: One evening, when the husband returned from work, he found his wife packing. “What in the world are you doing?” he asked. “I cannot handle it anymore," she replied. “I’m tired of all the bickering and arguing and complaining that’s been going on between us all these years, I’m leaving.” Whereupon, the startled husband suddenly dashed to the bedroom, pulled a suitcase out of the closet, filled it with his belongings and ran after his wife, saying, “I cannot handle it any more either. I’m going with you.”

There are conflicts between husband and wife, differences between husband and wife and many other problems that husband and wife often have to face in marriage life that seems unavoidable. The good thing in this story is that the husband is still following his wife, even though there are conflicts and differences.

In today’s Gospel, Saint Luke reminds us Jesus’ last journey to go from Galilee to Jerusalem before he’s taken up into heaven. The shortest route to go from Galilee to Jerusalem is to go through Samaria, but most Jews, at that time and perhaps even today, avoided this because for centuries Jews and Samaritans were sworn enemies. The main reason was the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem, while the Samaritans worshipped on mount Gerizim, close to our modern-day Nablus.

By going through Samaritan Village, Jesus hoped to find hospitality in that village and extended the hand of friendship to its people. But he was rejected, so bad so that James and John said to Jesus in today’s Gospel, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus rebuked them and asked them to proceed to another village.

Elijah came with power to call fire from heaven to consume those who wouldn’t accept God and to give his disciples double of his power when he threw the cloak over Elisha, reported in today’s first reading, but the Lord Jesus came with compassion and mercy to stop his disciples doing harm to their enemies nor even getting angry with those who went against them. When the Samaritan people, reported in today’s Gospel, would not welcome them, they would find another round to journey to Jerusalem but would not get mad to fight back.

Beside those who wouldn’t follow Jesus, there are three very interesting groups of people wanted to follow Jesus: The first type of people are the ones who would say to Jesus without hesitance, "I will follow you wherever you go." To this group, Jesus invites them to count the cost before setting out to follow him saying, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” There will be hardship, difficulties, and challenges of life ahead. The second type of people are the ones who responded by saying, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." To this group, Jesus responded saying, “Let the dead buried their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” What does it mean “Let the dead buried their dead?” It is a spiritual dead that numbed or paralyzed the father of the second group of people that they couldn’t follow Christ. Does that mean the Lord Jesus not care for those whose spirit is dead or rather whose soul is dead? With his wide opened arms on the Cross, he wants to embrace both the dead and the living ones to come to him. The question is: Have they had courage and strength to come back to him? The third group is the ones who said to him, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." To these people, Jesus replied, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” The wooden ploughs of that time were very fragile, and were in danger of being smashed if they struck any of the stones which were a feature of the land. Therefore, the ploughman had to keep his eyes on the ground ahead at all times. Therefore, the commitment of those who want to follow Christ should be total at all times.

Which group have you and I identified ourselves with? Have you and I identified ourselves with the group that rejected to follow Jesus or not even welcome him into their lives? Or have you and I identified ourselves with the group who dared to follow him wherever he goes even through suffering and dead? Have you and I identified ourselves whose soul is dead, no spiritual life but this physical body alone? Or have we identified ourselves with the last group who don’t have a total commitment in following the Lord Jesus because of many worries of life becoming stumbling blocks in our spiritual life? What does it mean “to follow” Christ for you and for me?

 

Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen


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