(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am; Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)
30 June 2013
(Readings: 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21; Ps 15; Gal 5:1, 13-18; Lk 9:51-62)
In the Gospel today we have the interesting occasion when a Samaritan town would not welcome Jesus. The “sons of thunder” – James and John – suggest that this inhospitable people should be smited: they suggest that they should call down fire from heaven to burn them up. Jesus rebukes them for the suggestion, and they simply move off elsewhere, to another village.
The wisdom of this action – of moving on – is seen later. When the first Christians are persecuted and flee from Jerusalem, it’s none other than the Samaritans who give the Christians refuge, and having received them, become believers (Acts 8:4-25). We could interpret this by saying that the time hadn’t come for the conversion of the Samaritans – and Jesus knew that full well.
At Mass during the week, Pope Francis offered some beautiful reflections about our patience, and God’s patience. He reflected on how God works in very different ways in different people. In the Scriptures, God waits until Abraham is 99 years old before he promises him a son … and yet, for others, a miracle worked by Jesus comes much sooner. Not only do we have to have patience to see the workings of God in our life, but God is patient with us. God waits for us until the very end of life! We think of the good thief: right at the very end of his life he acknowledges God in Jesus, and receives the pledge of life in paradise that very day. We need to be patient because sometimes God is with us and we don’t see Him … just like the disciples walking to Emmaus – unable to recognize Jesus walking with them because of their grief.
And so in today’s Gospel, by Jesus’ rebuke of James and John, he is teaching us that we need to be patient with those who do not yet accept Christ and God’s ways. We need to pray for them. We need to realize that God’s timing is not always our timing; we need to wait to see God’s action with patience, just as He is patient with us till the end.
In the second half of the Gospel we have that unique quote: Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. As we consider the story of Jesus we realize that there is no actual place we could say was Jesus’ home. Certainly, during the hidden years we believe that he had his home with Mary and Joseph. But after his public ministry commenced, he seems to have embraced an itinerant life of poverty, relying on the goodness of others – chiefly women, which is the impression that St Luke’s gospel gives.
But the fact that he had “no where to lay his head” refers to more than just being a poor itinerant. It says to us that he was “without a place” or “unplaceable.” This earthly life was not his true home – as it is not our true home. The only “place” that Jesus is at home is with his Father. The Son of God, even in his incarnation as man, never leaves his Father’s side – that is where he is at home. Jesus is completely about his Father’s business and the divine mission. And so his “home” on earth will be wherever the world’s redemption requires him to be (1).
And so, this helps us make sense of the words Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel which at first hearing sound harsh. Is it wrong for the young man to want to bury his father? No. Is it wrong for the other person to want to say good-bye to his people before following Jesus? Again, no. But because of Jesus’ closeness to His Father, and his complete focus on accomplishing the divine mission, he wants those who follow him to become equally consumed in this mission – such that everything else is secondary.
Perhaps the teaching of St Paul in our Second Reading today allows us to bring these thoughts together. As the Lord is patient with us, waiting for us even til the end, we need to be careful that we don’t use the Lord’s patience with us as an opportunity to do the wrong thing. St Paul exhorts, “you were called … to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence.” The remedy for this, St Paul teaches, is to serve one another in works of love, loving our neighbour as ourself.
We will achieve this if we are guided by the Spirit. And so we need to pray to the Holy Spirit, and open ourselves to the breath of the Spirit so that, filled with the Spirit, we may be as consumed with the divine mission of salvation as Jesus was. In this way, we will be eager to look for opportunities where we can share God’s love with others; to extend his compassion and mercy, and to help His light shine in the dark places of our world. May the graces of this Eucharist that we celebrate help us to do this.
(1) Aidan Nichols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 3, The Temporal Cycle: Sundays through the Year.