Luke 9:51-62
Delaying Tactics
 by Rev. Stanley Krempa
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.  On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?"  Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.  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 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 him."  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."

All of us have been on a journey in our lives. Young people love the adventure of travel. As we get older, we might settle for simply watching a travel channel on cable television. Jesus, however, calls each of us to a spiritual journey — a journey like no other.

In St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is described over the course of nine chapters. It is a journey to more than a city. It is a journey into the heart of the Paschal mystery of death and Resurrection. Through today’s Gospel, we are asked one dramatic question. Are we willing to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and let our lives be shaped by our discipleship?

In today’s Gospel, we have three unnamed individuals who seek to follow Jesus to Jerusalem. The refusal by the Samaritans to allow Jesus to pass through their territory is an early warning that following Jesus will not be an easy trip.

One person volunteers, “I will follow you wherever you go.” The Lord cautions him not to be impulsive. Look before you leap. Another person states that he will come after his father dies. To him, the Lord replies, “Let the dead bury their dead.” A third person wants to say goodbye to the family maybe expecting their support for this spiritual adventure. To him, the Lord says, “Don’t look back.” These individuals are not named perhaps because they are types of personalities or typical responses back then to the Lord Himself and perhaps in the early Church.

Their delaying tactics also apply to us. The Lord does not summon us to follow him physically on the dusty roads from Galilee to Jerusalem. But the Lord does call each of us to follow His Gospel in our life. Our journey with Jesus to Jerusalem is not a geographical one. It is a moral and spiritual one with Christ and into the true spiritual freedom of which St. Paul writes in today’s second reading. The same tactics of evasion used by these would-be disciples are present today. Maybe we have even used them ourselves.

Sometimes, we go head over heels in wanting to follow the Lord. We are ready with great plans. We are raring to go. (“I will follow you wherever you go.”) Then, we are overwhelmed with the demands of faithful discipleship. Rather than modulate the urge to follow the number of practices we have taken on, we drop them all. As the romance of discipleship hits reality, we experience ‘microwave spirituality.’ It heats up quickly and cools just as fast. The romance of discipleship can lead us to evade its reality.

When at the beginning of Advent or Lent, we feel the impulse to follow Jesus, to reorder our life around the Lord, we delay a response. We will follow once the family is grown, when our parents have passed away, as soon as a promotion is secure, or after our health returns. When this happens, we will follow. (“Let me bury my father.”) These are evasions we all have used. We want to make a commitment to the Lord but the moment when that will happen always seems to recede into the indefinite future. It is a dream that never comes true. Something always causes us to delay. Concrete commitment is “somewhere over the rainbow.”

Lastly, we may want to follow the Lord, but we want the approval of people around us (“saying goodbye to my family”). When the admiration of family, friends and neighbors for our newly embraced discipleship is not there, we start to question our commitment and keep looking back for recognition.

There are many images that describe the call of a Christian. One of the most potent and dynamic is that of our “journey to Jerusalem.” It is a journey that many evade and also a journey that many have chosen. Which will we choose?

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