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Gospel for Sunday, June 26 Luke 9: 51-62

XIII Sunday C

51As the days were being fulfilled when he would be taken out of the world, he headed resolutely toward Jerusalem 52And he sent messengers ahead. These set out and entered a village of Samaritans to make preparations for him. 53But they did not want to receive him, because he was headed for Jerusalem. 54When they saw this, the disciples James and John said: “Lord, do you want us to say that a fire will come down from heaven and consume them?” 55MBut Jesus turned around and rebuked them. 56And they set out for another village. 57As they were going down the road, a fellow said to him: “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58Jesus answered him: “The foxes have their dens and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” And he replied: “Lord, grant me to go and bury my father first.” 60Jesus replied: “Let the dead bury their dead; you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said: “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me take leave of those at home.” 62But Jesus answered him: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”:

Luke 9: 51-62

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

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THE REFUSAL OF THE SAMARITANS (9.51-56)

Luke began the story of Jesus’ public mission in Galilee with the rejection of the inhabitants of Nazareth (4.16-30). Now he introduces the journey to Jerusalem by posing yet another refusal: that of the Samaritans. It seems that Luke wants to place all of Jesus’ activity under the sign of conflict and rejection.

The enmity between Jews and Samaritans was very long-standing. Sargon II had conquered Samaria, the capital of the North in 722 BC. C.. According to the political custom of the Assyrians, he had deported the local inhabitants and replaced them with foreign populations. The new arrivals, as was the custom at that time, accepted the Lord, the God venerated by Israel, but at the same time continued to worship their idols (2 Kings 17,34-41). Hostility therefore finds its reason in racial diversity and religious syncretism. Subsequent events have only increased this already existing rivalry. The Jews in 538 BC return from the Babylonian exile and the Samaritans offered their help for the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem, but Zerubbabel, Joshua and the other leaders of the Jews disdainfully refused (Ezr 4.3). Finally the enmity was total when the Samaritans built their temple on Mount Gerizim in 325 BC. C..

But Jesus is also the salvation of the Samaritans. By asking his disciples to prepare for his coming to a village of Samaritans, Jesus breaks the Jewish aversion towards this people of mixed blood, who had the Pentateuch as Holy Scripture, but the local cult of Gerizim constituted a permanent challenge for the temple of Jerusalem. Here the Samaritans reject not so much the person of Jesus, but rather Jerusalem, the conclusion of his journey. And Jesus will speak well of Samaritans, as revealed by the parable of the Samaritan (10.25-37) and the episode of the leper Samaritan who returns to thank Jesus (17.11-19).

Jesus rebukes the disciples, who did not understand that they were missionaries of a God of mercy. The disciples, however, would like punishment as in the times of Elijah (2 Kings 1,10-14) who, to see his mission as a man of God recognised, had made fire come down from heaven which had devoured a hundred men sent to arrest him.

But Jesus did not come to be the vigorous reformer of morals expected by the Baptist (3.16-18). And if he “rebuked” the disciples it is because they understood absolutely nothing about his mission (announcement of rejection: 9.22) and his teaching (love towards enemies: 6.29). Many manuscripts here add: “You do not know what spirit you are, (because) the Son of Man did not come to lose (men’s) lives, but to save them” (see Luke 19:10).

Jesus is not rejected directly, but in his messengers, sent ahead to prepare a place for him. It is not difficult to see in this an experience of the Church, which saw its missionaries who announced the arrival of Christ rejected. Rejection is an experience of the Church, not just of Jesus.

If Christians are faithful to their Lord, they must be ready, like him, to love to the point of giving life: “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love what is of it; but since you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn 15:18-19). If Christians are obedient to the Gospel, they will be persecuted for the sake of Christ as the prophets were persecuted before, because “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Mt 10.24).

“There have probably been more martyrs in this century than in the first centuries of persecution… We had perhaps become a little accustomed to considering martyrdom as an event of times gone by, something that belongs to the first centuries of the Church, that of the great persecutions of the Roman emperors” (C. M. Martini). John Paul II wrote: “At the end of the second millennium the Church has once again become the Church of martyrs”.

Martyrdom is a call for everyone, in different ways and forms, but which must find us ready. And it’s not just being killed for proclaiming our faith. It is martyrdom to be mocked for being believers, not to have a career because you refuse to compromise; it is a single mother’s refusal to have an abortion, it is accepting a motherhood that is the result of violence, or refusing even important treatments for herself that could harm her pregnant child; it is martyrdom, if abandoned, not to remarry, remaining “eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19.12), or to forgive the adulterous spouse; or catch AIDS or leprosy by treating the sick; or being mocked for being chaste, because one shared one’s goods with the poor; it is being in any case on the side of the little ones, the poor, the suffering… It is the logic of the cross!

THE RADICALITY OF THE FOLLOWING (9.57-62)

The refusal of the Samaritans is followed by three words of Jesus on following, words that are striking for their particular radicality.

“As they were going along the road, someone said to him: «I will follow you wherever you go»” (9.57): we already know that it is the road towards Jerusalem, towards the Cross. This is what “wherever you go” specifies. Jesus has a precise goal, from which he does not allow himself to be distracted. “Akoluthèo”, “to follow”, is often used to indicate the choice of the disciples (5,1.27). Jesus responds with a proverb, to specify that it will not be a simple and comfortable life.

The second brief dialogue between Jesus and the man invited to follow him is certainly the most paradoxical. Burying one’s dead was considered an essential duty, before which even religious practices took a back seat (Lev 21.1-3). But for Jesus the announcement of the Kingdom comes first of all, without exception, it also comes before the law and every most sacred reality.

Another stranger is willing to follow Jesus, but asks for time to greet those at home: there is that “before” again. Jesus’ metaphor (“No one who has put his hand to the plow…”) means that following does not tolerate postponements, distractions, or emergency exits. It is customary here to make a comparison with the vocation of Elisha (1 Kings 19.20). The comparison underlines the radical nature of the call of Jesus, for whom there are no “ifs” or “buts”. Elisha goes first to greet his family, but not the disciple of Jesus. Following Jesus is more than following Elijah.

Luke does not say what the response of the aspiring disciples was: he remains optimistic…

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

Source

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