HOW TO FOLLOW JESUS
Jesus, with unwavering determination, sets off toward Jerusalem. He knows the horror and danger that he will suffer there – his disciples don´t – and nothing will hold him back. He now has just one aim in life: to announce and advance the mission of the Reign of God. He begins off badly and the Samaritans reject him. His disciples impulsively ask if they should “command fire” to destroy them, but he gives them a lesson on non-violence.
Jesus knows that it isn’t easy to journey with him in his life as an itinerant prophet. He can’t offer his followers the security and the prestige that the teachers of the law can promise their disciples. Jesus doesn’t deceive anyone. Whoever wants to follow him will have to learn to live as he does.
As they continue on their journey, a stranger comes up to Jesus. He seems to be full of enthusiasm: “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus lets him see that he cannot promise him security, or profit, or wellbeing. Jesus himself “has nowhere to lay his head.” He has no house, he eats what he gets, he sleeps here and there. Jesus uses the occasion to talk about discipleship and the implications of discipleship.
We shouldn’t fool ourselves. The great obstacle that holds many of us Christians back from truly following Jesus today is the wellbeing in which we have set our lives. We’re afraid to take Jesus seriously because we know that he demands that we live outside our comfort zone with more and more generosity and solidarity. We are slaves of our little wellbeing. Perhaps the economic and other crises today can serve to make us more human and more Christian.
Another person asks that he be allowed to go and bury his father before joining Jesus. Jesus answers him with a play on words that is provocative and enigmatic: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”. You bury the dead and move on. These harsh words call into question our conventional way of life..
We have to broaden the horizon we move in. Family isn’t everything. There’s something more important.
José Antonio Pagola says that If we decide to follow Jesus, we need to think also about the wider human family: no one should have to live without a home, or country, papers, rights.
All of us can do something more to build a more just and fraternal world, remembering especially so many recent migrants trying desperately to find a place they can belong.
Another person is ready to follow him, but first, he wants to say good-bye to his family. Jesus surprises him with these words: “Once a hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Anybody who has ever ploughed a field knows that you have to watch carefully in front of you to keep the furrows straight. Look backwards and you will swerve one way or another.
To collaborate in Jesus’s mission demands complete dedication, looking ahead without losing focus, walking toward the future with hope without locking ourselves in the past.
Pope Francis has warned us of something that is happening today in the Church: “We are afraid that God is carrying us on new paths, casting us out of our horizons that are all too often limited, closed and selfish, in order to open us to God’s own horizons”.
Sr Joan O’Shanahan OP, Victoria, Argentina