Many of us do quite a bit of traveling. Sometimes shopping, other times keeping medical appointments, generally running errands. We seem to be “on the road” quite a bit.
But it occurred to me recently that we are on another kind of “journey,” a spiritual journey. Interestingly enough, in the Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the evangelist Luke (Luke 9:51-62) has Jesus (quite likely from Galilee) “journeying” to Jerusalem. Curiously enough, Luke tells us that Jesus began his trek toward Jerusalem “with absolute determination.”
Why did Luke think that that motivation was necessary? Because Jerusalem was considered a city of destiny. It was the capital of the country. The famous Temple was there, considered the dwelling place of the Lord. Jerusalem was a place where big business was transacted.
For Jesus, Jerusalem was also a city of destiny. It was there that Jesus was to suffer, die, and resurrect from the death, thereby completing his ministry on earth. It was near there that he commissioned his disciples to carry on this work and then returned to heaven from which he came. The Advent/Christmas seasons remind us that Jesus was God made man (the union of the divine and the human). It was a journey from heaven to earth and back to heaven again.
Why was that journey for Jesus so significant? In the early stages of the trip Jesus passed through a little town in Samaria which did not welcome him at all. A guess was that the people were familiar with his work and did not appreciate it for whatever reason. This public dislike was a reminder that some people were not appreciative of Jesus’ ministry. Here Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was met with hostility.
Another curious thing about the journey, was that three individuals felt that they could be disciples of Jesus, sight unseen. The first individual was quite immediate in his desire to be a disciple. But Jesus wanted to make sure that his disciples were aware that suffering and rejection were part and parcel of Christian discipleship. It was not an easy choice to be his disciple.
The second individual was invited by Jesus himself to be a disciple, but the response was in the “yes, but…” category. That is to say that the potential disciple was not ready to accept the personal invitation of Jesus. He had other things to do beforehand.
The third potential disciple had both a spontaneity and a multiple series of tasks before saying “yes” to Christian discipleship. Jesus straightened him out by stating the equivalent of “now or never.” The choice was to accept the invitation when personally invited by Jesus.
What can we learn from today’s Gospel? The first thing we learn is that our whole life is a “journey,” as we attempt to proclaim Jesus’ ministry to others, that of justice, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. That is to say that whatever we say and do is an example–and we are judged according to our gestures.
We must also be aware that there are people who will challenge us not only for our actions, but also for our motivations. Suffering is part of Christian discipleship.
The second thing we can learn from today’s Gospel is that though we have taken on the responsibility of service to others because of our Baptism, we must be aware that true Christian discipleship involves suffering. And when Jesus offers us his call to follow him, preaching/living out his ministry takes prior importance.
In fact, a periodic prayer for us could be: “O Lord, help me review constantly what it takes to be one of your effective disciples. Only then will I know that I am definitely on the road to ‘Jerusalem,’ the symbolic place where I come in touch with my commissioning as effective disciple.”