Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Free for the Journey

September 28, 2011

Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

As Jesus and his disciples 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 home." Jesus answered him, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:57-62)


Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it. (Luke 17:33)


When I first heard today’s Gospel reading as a child, I remember finding it both sad and shocking - sad that Jesus didn’t have a place to call home and shocking that he would tell someone they couldn’t bury their parent or first say good bye to family before tagging along on the way to Jerusalem. Children take things very literally. And although Jesus isn’t speaking in a literal sense, maybe it’s good to retain some of the shock value of his words.

Jesus has begun his journey to Jerusalem, the long trek toward his passion, death and resurrection. He hopes his first disciples will walk with him. He longs to attract new followers along the way. He invites you and me to be part of the throng.

The one condition is that we be free for the journey. No problem, we tell Jesus. We’ll follow You wherever You go, but then, just like the people in the Scripture passage, we find we aren’t free to travel after all. There are lots of other things more important to us that we need to take care of first. It’s shocking when we hear Jesus say that what we’ve spent a lifetime amassing (and being told by family, friends and society that we should be amassing) – material possessions, homes, entanglements of the past, family ties that bind us to this world – all has to be left by the roadside. It’s not that we can’t have a place to call home or family and friends. We just can’t be so invested in them that they prevent us from making the trek all the way with the Lord or from focusing on the final destination, eternal happiness with God.


When we look at ourselves closely, we may be surprised at the things that prevent us from following Jesus. What do you need to set aside to be free to walk with the Lord, to give the journey your undivided attention?

Recently I read Richard Rohr’s book “A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,” which goes well with our Gospel reading for today. The author says we spend the first half of our lives building up our identities and building a structure (relationships and material goods) to support that identity. In the second half of life (not defined by any particular chronological age), we shed the preoccupation with self and are, thus, freer for a deeper relationship with God and more outpouring of ourselves for others. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking read, you might try this book.