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June 26, 1992     The Message
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June 26, 1992

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26, 1992 The Message  for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Commentary 11 .  By FATHER _DONALD DILGER Gospel Commentary for Sunday June 28, 1992, Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C: Luke 9:51-62 Jesus' work in Galilee has been completed. long journey to Jerusalem now begins. gospel reading is a kind of preface to y. This preface emphasizes tile diffi- Culty of following Jesus to Jerusalem, the jour- to his death. Luke writes that Jesus himself his face" for Jerusalem. This means that was now determined to undergo the awe- Some trials that he knew lay ahead of him. The disciples, however, are not as ready to go as Jesus is. Luke gives us four examples of disci- les and possible disciples. In the first example e stresses misunderstanding of the road to the Cross. In the other three examples he stresses the difficulty of following Jesus onthat road. The direct route to Jerusalem was through Ii Sarnaria, a Province situated between Galilee in e north and Judea in the south. Even though Jesus makes the same journey to Jerusalem in Mark and Matthew by avoiding Samaria, Luke takes him through Samaria because of his em- |[lhasis on Samaritans throughout both his gospel [: aad his second book, Acts of Apostles. Exactly [ vhat the historical reasons were for Luke's in- [ terest in Samaritans we do not know. We may from Luke's writings (and John 4) that ]s an important missionary territory primitive Christianity. ._ Jesus and his disciples come to a village of 8araaria. When the citizens of this village dis- COver that they are en route to Jerusalem, they The journey to Jerusalem: A difficult road for disciples close the gates of tile city. The reaction of James and John, whose impulsive and ambitious char- known to us from Mark and Matthew, is to request permission from Jesus to call down heavenly fire upon the village. Jesus rebukes them and they move on to another village. It is clear that Luke here teaches that the disci- ples misunderstand the purpose of Jesus' jour- ney to his death. It is to be a healing journey, not a punitive one. A disciple of Jesus does not re- spond violently to rejection of Jesus' message. If the incident is historical, the impulse to call down fire from heaven would be based on the opinion of the time that Jesus was Elijah re- turned. Why so? In II Kings 1 there is a story about Elijah repeatedly calling down fire from heaven upon groups of soldiers sent by the king to arrest him. If the incident is not historical, the tradition used the Elijah background to show that Jesus was not Elijah returned. In fact Luke's Jesus rejects that role for himself and gives it to John the Baptist in Luke 7:18-27. Following this incident a man approaches Jesus with an offer: "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus points out the difficulty Of follow- ing him by stating that even though birds and wild animals have nests and lairs, he himself has nowhere to lay his head. Luke does not tell us the result of this encounter. Then Jesus in- vites a man with the words: "Follow me." The man wants to go home first and bury his father. We assume the father was quite dead. But the Lucan Jesus responds harshly "Let the dead bury the dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." A third man then offers to fol- low Jesus, but first wants to say goodbye to his family. Another harsh response: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Almost every time Luke turns to this kind of harshness we can assume he is using as a source the lost gospel we call "Q" (for the Ger- man word Quelle meaning "source"). That is the case here, too, since it is also found in the Gospel of Matthew in almost identical language for the first two incidents. Luke adds the third incident and bases it on a story about the first encounter between Elijah and his future disci- ple Elisha, I Kings 19:19-21. If we study Luke's gospel as a whole, we no- tice that this is the gospel of absolute renuncia- tion. The same holds true of his depiction of the first Christian community at Jerusalem in Acts 4:32-37: "No one said that any of the things they possessed were their own, but they shared ev- erything." For Luke there can be no compro- mise with anything that would deter from the proclamation of the gospel. Difficult as it may seem to us to have a gospel reject even family relationships, this is what Luke taught. Perhaps we can mitigate the harshness of this teaching by quoting Jesus in Matthew 19:11-12: "Not all can receive this saying, but only to those to whom it is given .... Those who are able to re- ceive it, let them receive it." Yet we must add that no Christian is excused from the obligation of proclaiming Jesus in one way or another. 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