So you are planning on getting away for your summer vacation. You logon to your favorite airline or perhaps Expedia.com or Travelocity.com to determine the best rates. The rates seem high-more than your budget allows. A friend told you to log on to jesus.com. So you try this site only to find there are no round trip tickets---jesus.com only sells "one way" tickets. If you fly with Jesus, you need to make a full commitment with no strings attached. You buy the one way ticket not knowing when or if you will be returning.
The readings for today are disturbing. They are challenging. They leave me with a feeling of "do I really want to go there"?
In the Gospel from Luke we see the very human response that people make to the call from Jesus. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and stopped at a Samaritan Village but was not welcomed in that village. James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on these people. James and John received the nick name the "Sons of Thunder" for their idea. Sort of like our "scorched-earth" policy. He was not welcomed as he was a Jew heading to Jerusalem. Passion and revenge is the exact opposite of the teaching of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus are to return blessing for curse and love for hatred. Jesus REBUKED them for this over-kill policy and would not allow it.
As they proceeded along some one said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." How many times have you said to a person something similar; not knowing what you are saying? If you are going to follow Jesus, it is like buying a "one way ticket". You may not always be in control; you may be asking for more than you can handle; you may not always have the security of having a "place to lay your head". At this point in the life of Jesus, he was wandering about the villages trying to find his own direction and discern the life unfolding for him. He did not have a "home" in which he could rest secure. Many were after him to arrest him for doing things against the law. If you were going to "follow" him you will lose control of your life.
To follow Jesus will require that you show love not hate; compassion not revenge; mercy not spite; living in the Spirit of the Law not the Letter of the Law. Some people wear the simple bracelet with 4 letters stamped on it: WWJD-"What Would Jesus Do?"
We are not always able to determine the exact time Jesus will be calling us to make a radical decision to follow him. We hear of the man who wants to wait until his father dies and he has buried him. Then his calendar will be free to follow Jesus. Jesus rebukes him and tells him to let the dead bury the dead. Honoring past familial commitments will render him spiritually dead. Jesus is calling for a radical transformation. Jesus requires a transformation which includes leaving the old way behind and only focusing on the future and all that it holds for those who follow him.
The final incidence in today's Gospel details how one person wants to go back to is family to get their permission to follow him. The response of Jesus to him has been heard many times: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God". Seeking permission from others avoids the ultimate personal decision we all must make. Once that decision is made do not look back. Jesus is looking for determination and a personal choice for him over anything else in our life.
Many times we learn by affirmation of what our life and decisions have been while at other times we learn by being rebuked to the point that we need to rethink our position. Today Jesus uses the method of rebuking the disciples as once again they were not able to make the ultimate decision correctly. There is a higher good and a higher self, symbolized by Jesus, that anger, enthusiasm, duty, and permission should heed. The higher self and the insistence that everything else be subservient to this truth seem to be the message today. The higher self is the part of our being which acknowledges that our life needs to be aligned with the message of Jesus: without seeking permission of others; without looking back over our shoulder to see if we did the right thing; without needing to wait until everything else is cleared from our personal calendar and then we can follow Jesus.
Do we find defensiveness rising in us when some of our ways of thinking and acting are challenged? Do we waste our time on revenge no matter how justified we think it is? Do not become attached to a way of life that kills the spirit and then cloak it in noble-sounding language-follow what gives you life. Do not look outside yourself and seek permission from others; find your higher self and commit yourself to its unfolding.
In today's Gospel Jesus is calling us to a radical transformation of our life. We are called to leave all else behind; to change our direction and to follow Jesus. Will you buy a round trip ticket assuring you stay only awhile and then come back to your familiar way of life? Will you buy a one way ticket, leaving the past behind and follow Jesus?