Luke 9: 51-62
51 When it was time for him to be torn from this life, Jesus took a steadfast attitude and set out for Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers before him. On their way, they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his visit. However, they did not want to receive him because his plan was to go to Jerusalem. 54 Seeing this, the disciples James and John say, "Do you want us to tell them that fire should descend from heaven on them and consumes them?" After turning around, Jesus critized them. 56 Then they set out for another village.
57 As they walked down the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go". 58 But Jesus said to him, "The foxes have their den and the birds of the sky their nest, but the new Adam has no place to lay his head". 59 He said to another, "Follow me!" But he answered, "Lord, first let me go to bury my father". 60 Jesus answered him, "Let the dead put their own dead to the grave, but you, go and make known the world of God". 61 Another person said to him again, "I am going to follow you, Lord. But first let me say goodbye to my family". 62 Jesus retorted, "Someone who has grabbed a plow but is looking backward does not have the skills necessary for God's world."
To move forward without stoping, at the risk of a catastrophe
Gospel commentary - Homily
Did you ever go through a hiring process? If you wanted to be hired, you tried to show that you were the ideal candidate: your knowledge, your skills, your personal qualities would be an asset to the company. I, as a manager on the employer's side, clearly specify the required skills: great capacity for logical and analytical reasoning, customer service, effective interactive communication, teamwork and initiative. If a candidate does not have these skills, I know he can not contribute to the mission of the company and, on the contrary, he will be a problem. In this context, tell me, what would you put on the hiring poster for the Christian mission? It is in this context that I propose you to reread the gospel of this Sunday. This setting is all the more justified as our passage is followed by the story of the hiring of 72 disciples sent on mission.
Jesus explicitly mentions four qualities of the desired candidate. First, he is not authoritarian or domineering as Jacques and John would tend to be towards the Samaritans: the world of God can only be welcomed in complete freedom. When we think of the Inquisition that raged in the Church in the 13th and 14th century, we now know that it was contrary to what Jesus asked. The same can be said of the imposition of Sharia law by Muslim fundamentalists.
Second, the applicant must be able to evolve unceasingly until his death, in the image of this travel of Jesus to Jerusalem where he will die; it is a temptation to lay down our head when we are on the move for growth, to stop and take a rest in our den and sleep in a cozy nest, and even to regress to the fetal stage; let's not forget that life, as well the world of God, is ongoing movement: regardless of our starting point and our degree of emotional maturity, we are called to always take a step forward. What would you say to someone who would tell you: I want to be a child all my life, or I want to stay a teenager all my life. Desiring status quo or keeping things as they once were in the world of Christendom is contrary to what Jesus asks of the disciple.
Third, the applicant is able to determine the true priorities to the point of stepping back from the rules, traditions and institutions, as venerable as they are, to the extent that they do not contribute to life. In the Jewish tradition, a son had to fulfill his filial duty to see his father's burial. Yet Jesus says: There is something more important than all these noble duties of society and religion, to be where the life is, where God is taking action. How would you react to someone who is being told, "Look, I can not take it anymore. I'm going to kill myself", and would reply: "Not now, I have my 4:00 pm mass"?
Fourth, family ties, the world of our culture, may have contributed greatly to what we are today, but their role is to launch us to the future. If we succumb to the temptation to return to the sweetness of the uterus rather than being tracing new paths, then we do not have the skills to be followers of Jesus. You know very well that a couple who has decided to have a child has made a choice for life; they can not say once the child is born: that's not what I wanted.
Look at the great religions of the world. Are they not primarily conservative forces that look at the world today with a discouraged and grumbling eye? Yet Jesus presents the face of a man constantly on the move, resolutely turned towards the future, happy to meet life, passionate about the mystery of this world whose name is God. When we look at Jesus' actions, we have the impression that life is the most magnificent and extraordinary reality in the world. And he wants candidates in his image.
Who is this day's gospel addressed to? To priests? To members of a religious order and nuns? No. He speaks to us all. We are the disciples of Jesus. We are those lovers of life, we are those who have refused to be stagnant and have embraced the future, we are those who evolve unceasingly until they have joined this God so mysterious. We are the ones who were hired?
But do we want to continue?
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, March 2007