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Pastor's Column

Christ is Passing By

Pastor’s Column

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 26, 2022

James Tissot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Christ is passing by—what will my response be? In this Sunday’s gospel, a man approaches Jesus. He seeks Jesus out while he is passing by on the road. We learn from Matthew that this man is a scribe, so he is a learned man and religious. He is also full of zeal. “I will follow you wherever you go!” he exclaims. And what is Jesus’ response to this? Jesus pours cold water on him. NOT SO FAST! So you will follow me anywhere, will you? You are a scribe; you are used to having a comfortable life. If you follow me, you may not sleep in the same bed ever again! Are you really willing to pay the price?

When we too spot Jesus on the road of life, we too may wish to follow him more closely. But where is Jesus going? Scripture says (and only here in Luke) that Jesus has turned his face resolutely toward Jerusalem…. He has made up his mind to go there, even though it will lead to his death. If you want to be a follower of Christ, don’t be surprised if the road leads to the cross before the resurrection. Don’t be surprised if the road leads to your own death, because this is where Jesus is going; He wants us to come with him, but he also wants us to know where the road will lead.

So we are following Jesus, and he will lead us to our own cross, our own death. What kind of death? Death to our sins, death to our self-centeredness. If you are not waging war against your sins by practicing regular confession, perhaps you are really not the follower of Christ you think you are. Christ makes demands. Yes, he promises great rewards, not the least of which is friendship with God and a place at his dinner table here on earth and in heaven, but he also dignifies us by challenging us.

Foxes have lairs and the birds of the sky have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head. Do you think Christ is offering you a comfortable life? He’s not. He will regularly allow us to be deprived of things we think we need… he’s not just referring to beds. He may deprive you of your health, your job, your comfort zone, your reputation. It’s all for the best—but we must trust Jesus. Someone may take up too much of your time; or we try to do something for God, and it backfires. Our prayer is not answered as we wish. And then we may say, “What gives, God? Don’t you love me anymore”? And he will remind you of this passage: if you are a follower of mine, I will allow the cross; I allow things to be taken away from you, but it will be for the best in the end—if you trust me. But remember, before the glory comes the cross. That’s the way I’m going–if you want to follow me!

Notice that in the case of the second person, it is Jesus who issues the invitation. This man was probably following Jesus around and caught God’s attention. So Jesus puts him on the spot! Come and be a real follower. The man makes what seems to us to be a reasonable request – “I need to go home and bury my father”. Jesus seems to give a harsh answer back, doesn’t he? Not a very pastoral-sounding reply. “Let the dead bury the dead!”

Most likely, this man’s father was not dying or even close to death. What he meant was, let me go home and think about this. In other words, he was putting his response off, perhaps for a long time. But this man did not have the luxury of time. For Jesus has turned his face resolutely toward Jerusalem. Jesus is headed to his death, and this man did not have time to go home and think it over. It was now—or never.

There comes a time in our lives when – if we don’t do this thing now, the opportunity may never come again, it won’t ever happen. It will likely not be done at all. If I am receiving the grace of conversion in my life or to come back to church, now is the time to act on it, not later. There might not be a later. If I am being called to be a priest or a religious, the time to act is NOW. If I hope to give up excessive drinking or some other bad habit, now is the day. Christ is passing by. He is going to his death, and he wants you and me to come along. We will go to our own death too; a cross is waiting for us too, but it is also the best thing that can happen to us.

This third man is found only in Luke. He is willing to follow Christ, but he makes excuses. He is looking back to what he must leave behind. Now this man was a farmer, plowing his field when Jesus passes by. Jesus tells him if he keeps looking back to what lay in the past he will never plow accurately. If you have ever tried to plow a field, it is pretty difficult to go in a straight line if you are looking in the mirror! Now it is true that Christ is present in our past, but he beckons us from the future. He stands with us, and also in eternity, calling you and I to be deeper, more committed followers of Christ. To plunge forward and not look back. To say yes, with all our hearts, while we still can.

So today we find Christ passing by: He speaks to us. How? In the gospel. He spoke these words, not just to three persons who lived 2000 years ago, but directly to you. He wants you as a committed follower of his. But he also asks us to count the cost. He will not hide the truth from us. Become my follower and I will lead you to glory, but it will be by way of the cross. You will be going to your own death – death to self and sin. It will be an exciting journey of proclaiming the Lord in word and deed. He will often permit things to be taken away from us that we need, so that we will trust him. He advises us not to look back, but to keep our eyes fixed on him. When you meet Christ on the road of life, let him speak to you. Come, and follow me, and I will give you the adventure of your life. The journey of a lifetime—a journey led by Christ.

Father Gary


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