Luke 9:51-62
When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem…
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” [To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I want to look at the first part and the last part of the gospel today. In the first part, Jesus is dealing with a Samaritan town. He sent messengers ahead of him announcing where he was headed. It was known that the Messiah was going to appear in his power and majesty in Jerusalem, this was known even to the Samaritans.
So when the Samaritans reject him, they are not just simply rejecting him because he’s going to Jerusalem, a city they did not like, but they were rejecting him because he was going as Messiah.
There are many people today who are willing to listen to who Jesus is, but they are not willing to accept him the way he is. They want to change some aspect of what he is about. Either he is not stern enough, or he is not merciful enough, or he is not environmentally aware, or someone is made him into an environmental guru, or some other thing that keeps these people from seeking the true Jesus.
He then has some exchanges with three other people who appear to be following him. I want to focus on the last of those three as my other main point for today. The reason to focus on that is because it contrasts what happened in our first reading. Why the difference between the two?
Elisha is given permission to go back and say goodbye. But the man of the gospel is not given the chance. What is the difference? Jesus was heading for the Kingdom of his Father. Elijah was heading back into the battle for the soul of his nation. Jesus was calling this disciple to head for the Kingdom. Elijah was calling Elisha to enter the battle for the nation. Elijah was, correctly, in his day working for the nation. But Jesus has always been working for the Kingdom of his Father.
This I think is the difference between the two scenes. But it also points out a similarity between the two points mentioned in the gospel. Our orientation now is not supposed to be on this world, even though we live in this world and need to do things to make this world as holy as possible. Our orientation is to be on the Kingdom of God. Not all the people in the world around us, like the Samaritan town, are ready to hear this call to holiness.
This is also what Paul is trying to lead us to as he talked about the battle between the flesh and the spirit. These two parts of ourselves war against one another. Our body is like the Samaritan town. Our spirit is like the first man who said to Jesus “I will follow you wherever you go!”
Are you ready to make that kind of commitment? Oh, don’t worry, burying the dead is still a corporal work of mercy. What Jesus was getting at with this was that we are not to keep looking back, which is part of what he was saying to the third man when he talked about the plow. But instead we are to look to the life of the Spirit. He will orient our lives in such a way that we can give glory to God in all we say and do.
Almighty Father, your Son has already completed his journey through Jerusalem back to you. Help us to remain faithful in our journey. Help us to not count the cost, but commit ourselves to following where you call us to go. As Peter said (in the gospel acclamation): “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
As Elijah anointed Elisha, so we have been anointed with your Holy Spirit through the Sacraments we have received. As Elisha in his day asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, so send a double portion of your Holy Spirit on us in our day so that we can work the mighty works you have planned to draw your people back to you for the sake of your glory. Amen.