“The Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head…”
I don’t know about you but I am happy when I can lie down in my bed at night. I’m safe. I’m warm. I’ve eaten during the day…. And there is nothing wrong with that.
My heart, however, wonders at these words of Jesus.
“Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus is not sugarcoating his expectations of those who would be his disciples. He asks for everything. To give up every security. Every excuse. To make a complete break with all loyalties and attachments that hinder our relationship with him being total, complete, entire.
“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
To follow Jesus we have to abandon everything that we have put into building up a “kingdom” that revolves around us in order to take up residence and to minister in God’s Kingdom.
What is this “everything” that we need to abandon? If we confine ourselves to the words and events presented in the Gospel today we can feel that we are pretty safe. We probably aren’t going to be asked to be homeless if we follow Jesus. If our parents are sick no one is going to begrudge us time off for caring for them, even if we are in full-time ministry. And as to saying good-bye to our family at home, we have a thousand ways of staying in contact now with them between texting and video calls, and watching their lives play out before us daily on our Facebook feeds. We probably won’t miss a minute of their lives even if we are a thousand miles away.
The call of the “all” woven into this Gospel reading can be unconsciously reduced to a problem that the people speaking to Jesus that day had to deal with.
So what is the “all” that we might be called to abandon in order to follow Christ?
In these days of protests and the struggle for racial justice and harmony Pope Francis gives us one direction where this “all” might actually force us into conversion if we wish to be Jesus’ disciple.
In his encyclical, Joy of the Gospel, he spends over twenty paragraphs reflecting on some of the challenges of today’s world (nos. 50-75). As I read these numbers I could feel Jesus pointing out the stark options I had before me if I wished to follow him:
“You need to say no to an economy of exclusion if you wish to follow me. Think about where you shop. What are your needs. What you can’t do without. Go first and say no to the new idolatry of money and then come and follow me. Those decisions that put money before people….employees, the disenfranchised, the people “in the way” of progress. The one who contributes to and profits from a financial system which rules rather than serves is not fit for the Kingdom of God. Only after committing yourself to counter policies that promote inequality and spawn violence, can you come and follow me.”
As I listen to these invitations in my heart, I begin to shift in my seat. This hits home much more than “he who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
The “cost” of following Christ today, the “all” that must be abandoned in order to be fit for the Kingdom of God is, in one way, the whole system we keep propped up—personally and as a society—to make sure that we are taken care of at the expense of others. The cost of being Christ’s disciple is detachment from prejudices, entitlement, wealth, prestige, fixing the system so we get ahead, carrying forward and acting out of polices which imprison individuals and peoples in situations of inequality, poverty, and violence, excluding others, turning a blind eye to those caught in the spiral of poverty so deep that they are excluded from the table….
We all know at least one of these situations. We might find it in our heart, in our families, in our parishes, in our cities, in our schools….
Now is the time to “put our hand to the plow” and make a decision to “say no” to systems that have formed us through our life, perhaps, but which now we know are so totally inadequate for life in the Kingdom. The world needs to take a giant leap forward in respecting the human dignity of each of God’s children.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
So I may still go to sleep tonight, safely in my bed. But my heart has been disquieted by Jesus who calls me as his disciple to be the voice of love in this world, to choose humility, to repent of prejudice, to push others ahead of myself, praying that they will have more than I, determined to address any situation of inequality I encounter in my personal circle.
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