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Today’s Gospel passage marks a turning point in Luke. After
Jesus’ popular ministry in his native Galilee region, Luke tells us
that he "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem." A travel
narrative now begins. It is a large section in Luke’s gospel
(9:51-19-27) and it will end in the place where Jesus meets his
suffering and death . So today’s passage is a crucial moment in
Jesus’ ministry and it begins a series of teachings on the nature of
discipleship. Jerusalem is not just another city, another place to
preach and cure. Jesus knew that, we know it and his disciples are
about to learn it. What we will be reminded on this journey with
Jesus and his disciples, is that following Jesus in not just a
casual decision, one of many we make in our lifetime. Luke is
setting out to show us we must make careful consideration of the
costs and unwavering commitment following Jesus requires.
First, Jesus passes through a Samaritan village. Luke links their
rejection with the fact the "the destination of his journey was
Jerusalem." Maybe they reject Jesus because the Samaritans want
Jesus to go to their own Mount Gerizim and not to Mount Zion, the
Jewish place of worship. Or, maybe Luke is suggesting we must be
prepared to accept the costs of following Jesus and it is the
suffering that comes with discipleship that is the reason the world
rejects Jesus. He is very much admired in our world: Jesus makes a
lovely religious icon; his cross is worn as a piece of jewelry – but
he wants more than admiration from a safe distance.
Life is frequently described as a journey – it has a beginning,
an end and along the way there are important stopping-off places
with countless vistas. However, the difference for us Christians is
that it is more than a journey – it is a pilgrimage. We are like
pilgrims of old, traveling together towards a special place, praying
as we go and supporting one another as we face the challenges along
the way. Jerusalem is the backdrop for Jesus’ journey. He keeps
Jerusalem always in his mind’s eye. Jesus is single minded, he has a
task to accomplish and we will all be the beneficiaries. Jesus makes
it quite clear along the way that to follow him is to be willing to
journey whole heartedly with him to Jerusalem. No compromises, no
The somber words to the potential disciples in today’s reading
tell them and us that they must join his single minded
determination. The first candidate is reminded that following Jesus
has its own insecurities, even homelessness. The second is told that
there is even a higher loyalty than filial responsibilities. Let the
spiritually dead deal with their dead. And to the third, who wants
to go say farewell to his family, Jesus says he will tolerate no
delays. There is no looking back if you want to plow a straight
line. Jesus is not in the numbers game. Rather than just add numbers
to his followers, Jesus wants the others to know just what they are
getting into if they decide to go with him to Jerusalem.
We who count the size of our congregation on a Sunday morning and
reckon the success of our ministry by the numbers who show up, are
caught short here. Is each of us ready to reaffirm our commitment to
Christ when sacrifice and not "success" are the fruits of
discipleship? The "Son of Man has no where to rest his head," –
while we allow little of the world’s pain to enter our head and
disturb our peace of mind. Do the pictures of the suffering we see
each evening on television news ever cause us a restless night? Or,
even a few minutes less sleep? Are we haunted at night by the
distress of others – enough to rise from our restless pillow
determined to do some little bit to change a situation so that
others might rest more easily?
Today’s gospel does what the Sermon on the Mount does – makes me
feel my inadequacy as a disciple. Who among us hasn’t looked back?
Or, made a choice for our own profit, rather than accept the
sacrifice of discipleship? Who hasn’t kept quiet when we should have
spoken up, so that we can continue to fit in comfortably with our
peers? We have acquiesced rather than speak up and put ourselves on
the line. Thankfully we have this Eucharist, the meal of
recommitment. Gathered with other followers around the table, we
hear the words that rebuild the crumbling structure, patch the
cracks and freshen up the paint of our discipleship. We eat the meal
that knits us more closely into a community that has heard the
invitation to follow, considered the costs and still said "yes";
even if it is a fragile "yes," timidly whispered, more than
In the first reading, Elisha completely destroys his past to
follow the prophet Elijah and to respond to God's call. He kills the
yoke of oxen and uses the plowing equipment to provide fuel to cook
them. He puts behind him all his old ways of living to accept a new
way, in a new relationship with the prophet Elijah. Does it suggest
that one has to make a clean break when one decides that God is
inviting us to change, or to enter into a more profound commitment?
Society offers ways of violence and aggression to get our will:
"one-up-manship" is congratulated; power is extolled and high
position is the sought-after reward. However, we hear a call to a
new community and an entirely new consciousness when we respond to
God's call. Elisha's actions suggest that half measures will not do.
Sometimes we don't have the luxury of putting off to a more
"appropriate time" the changes we need to make. We all can quote
stories of people caught short and wanting when struck with
sickness, or demands on their internal resources. They found they
had nothing to draw from when strength, resolve, or integrity were
Elisha hears the call and responds in the midst of his daily
life: a very typical place for a call in the Bible. Remember Peter’s
call while he was washing his nets; Matthew’s came while he was in
the toll booth collecting taxes; Moses’ while he was tending sheep.?
What we do everyday is most likely the place of our call as well.
The call may be: to simplify our lives; cut back on our hectic
schedule for the sake of our family; get out of an abusive
relationship; quit the gang of kids we hang around with, etc. We
here in the United States celebrate Independence Day this week. It's
a secular holiday, but it does give us an opportunity to reflect on
the slavery and addictions that keep us from being free. Hear the
call: of independence to more sanity; less violence in our speech
and actions; the realization that "having it all," is having nothing
"To follow" and "to serve" in biblical language mean something
very specific. These terms infer personal allegiance. When we follow
someone/serve someone; we enter into personal relationship. In our
first reading, Elisha says to Elijah, "I will follow you." In Luke,
the potential followers say to Jesus, "I will be your follower."
Personal allegiance is what we Christians are about. We don't follow
a dogma or creed, but the person of Christ.
We "see" and "hear" what's involved in following Jesus by means
of the stories of the Gospel. In today’s Gospel we not only hear the
invitation to follow, but already hear what's required – total trust
and dedication. The follower's relationship to God, or Christ, is
what is stressed. The relationship doesn't enslave us but graces us,
frees us – even while are being made totally dedicated. Such
dedication is freedom, deliverance from "the yoke of slavery" (2nd.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this
freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another
through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
On the eve of the U.S. Independence Day when we celebrate freedom
found in political liberties, today’s Reading II, finds Paul
reminding his audience of the freedom they have found in the gospel.
This is a freedom that is expressed best in loving service to our
neighbor. If you have any doubt of the importance that Paul places
on this aspect of being a Christian, read 1 Corinthians 13. Love,
faith, and hope are the most fundamental charisms that a Christian
needs to exhibit but, since love is operative within faith and hope,
love has primacy.
Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy
of the Gospel): "Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond
to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go
forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no
circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are
at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not
radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s
moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our
greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is
being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on
specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of
losing its freshness and will cease to have ‘the fragrance of the
He continues: "Benedict XVI has said that ‘closing our eyes to
our neighbor also blinds us to God’ and that love is, in the
end, the only light which ‘can always illuminate a world grown dim
and give us the courage needed to keep living and working’.
When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and
seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s
greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another
person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes
are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith
and knowledge of God" (272).
Reflect on your charism to love in the light of some of today’s
issues--immigration, healthcare, unborn and their mothers, creation
care, racism, militarism. .
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem....
The Christian way is frequently described as a journey – but not
for sightseeing or mere observation. It requires daily commitment.
It might be more accurate to call it a "pilgrimage." Like pilgrims
of old, we are traveling together towards a special place, praying
as we go and supporting one another as we face the challenges along
So we ask ourselves:
- How would you describe this moment of your Christian
- What is the source of your strength and nourishment as you
travel day to day?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- John Williams #0599379 (On death row since 3/5/98)
- Danny Frogg #0137368 (3/27/98)
- Allen Holman #0587681 (4/7/98)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday
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1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group,
or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in
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You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:
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4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those
wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the
Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent
weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
Vince Hagan Drive
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