POPE FRANCIS ON THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
Saint Peter’s Square
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 30 June 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk 9:51-62), Saint Luke begins the narrative of Jesus’ last journey towards Jerusalem, which ends at Chapter 19. It is a long journey, not only geographically and spatially, but also spiritually and theologically, towards the fulfilment of the Messiah’s mission. Jesus’ decision is radical and total, and those who follow him are called to measure up to it. Today the Evangelist presents us three characters — three cases of vocation, we could say — that shed light on what is required of those who wish to follow Jesus to the end, completely.
The first character promises him: “I will follow you wherever you go” (v. 57). Generous! But Jesus replies that the Son of man, unlike foxes that have holes, and birds that have nests, “has nowhere to lay his head” (v. 58). The absolute poverty of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus left his paternal home and gave up all security in order to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the lost sheep of his people. In this way Jesus pointed out to us, his disciples, that our mission in the world cannot be static, but is itinerant. The Christian is itinerant. The Church by her very nature is in motion; she does not stay sedentary and calm within her enclosure. She is open to the broadest horizons, sent forth — the Church is sent forth — to bring the Gospel through the streets and to reach the human and existential peripheries. This is the first character.
The second character Jesus meets receives the call directly from him, but replies: “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (v. 59). It is a legitimate request based on the commandment to honour your father and mother (cf. Ex 20:12). Nevertheless, Jesus responds: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Lk 9:60). With these deliberately provocative words, he intends to emphasize the primacy of following and of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, even over and above the most important realities, such as the family. The urgency of communicating the Gospel, which breaks the chains of death and ushers in eternal life, does not permit delays but requires promptness and complete willingness. Thus, the Church is itinerant, and here the Church is decisive, acts quickly, on the spot, without waiting.
The third character also wants to follow Jesus but on one condition: he will do so after bidding farewell to his relatives. And this is the response he receives from the Teacher: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62). Following Jesus excludes regrets and backward glances but requires the virtue of decision.
In order to follow Jesus, the Church is itinerant, acts promptly, quickly and decisively. The value of these conditions set by Jesus — itinerancy, promptness and decision — does not lie in a series of saying ‘no’ to the good and important things in life. Rather, the emphasis is placed on the main objective: to become a disciple of Christ! A free and conscious choice, made out of love, to reciprocate the invaluable grace of God, and not made as a way to promote oneself. This is sad! Woe to those who think about following Jesus for their own advantage, that is, to further their career, to feel important or to acquire a position of prestige. Jesus wants us to be passionate about him and about the Gospel. A heartfelt passion which translates into concrete gestures of proximity, of closeness to the brothers and sisters most in need of welcome and care. Precisely as he himself lived.
May the Virgin Mary, icon of the pilgrim Church, help us to joyfully follow the Lord Jesus and, with renewed love, to proclaim the Good News of Salvation to brothers and sisters.
St Peter’s Square
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 30 June 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel Reading (Lk 9:51-62) shows a very important step in Christ’s life: the moment when, as St Luke writes: “He [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). Jerusalem is the final destination where Jesus, at his last Passover, must die and rise again and thus bring his mission of salvation to fulfilment.
From that moment, after that “firm decision” Jesus aimed straight for his goal and in addition said clearly to the people he met and who asked to follow him what the conditions were: to have no permanent dwelling place; to know how to be detached from human affections and not to give in to nostalgia for the past.
Jesus, however, also told his disciples to precede him on the way to Jerusalem and to announce his arrival, but not to impose anything: if the disciples did not find a readiness to welcome him, they should go ahead, they should move on. Jesus never imposes, Jesus is humble, Jesus invites. If you want to, come. The humility of Jesus is like this: he is always inviting but never imposing.
All of this gives us food for thought. It tells us, for example, of the importance which the conscience had for Jesus too: listening in his heart to the Father’s voice and following it. Jesus, in his earthly existence, was not, as it were “remote-controlled”: he was the incarnate Word, the Son of God made man, and at a certain point he made the firm decision to go up to Jerusalem for the last time; it was a decision taken in his conscience, but not alone: together with the Father, in full union with him! He decided out of obedience to the Father and in profound and intimate listening to his will. For this reason, moreover, his decision was firm, because it was made together with the Father. In the Father Jesus found the strength and light for his journey. And Jesus was free, he took that decision freely. Jesus wants us to be Christians, freely as he was, with the freedom which comes from this dialogue with the Father, from this dialogue with God. Jesus does not want selfish Christians who follow their own ego, who do not talk to God. Nor does he want weak Christians, Christians who have no will of their own, “remote-controlled” Christians incapable of creativity, who always seek to connect with the will of someone else and are not free. Jesus wants us free. And where is this freedom created? It is created in dialogue with God in the person’s own conscience. If a Christian is unable to speak with God, if he cannot hear God in his own conscience, he is not free, he is not free.
This is why we must learn to listen to our conscience more. But be careful! This does not mean following my own ego, doing what interests me, what suits me, what I like…. It is not this! The conscience is the interior place for listening to the truth, to goodness, for listening to God; it is the inner place of my relationship with him, the One who speaks to my heart and helps me to discern, to understand the way I must take and, once the decision is made, to go forward, to stay faithful.
We have had a marvellous example of what this relationship with God is like, a recent and marvellous example. Pope Benedict XVI gave us this great example when the Lord made him understand, in prayer, what the step was that he had to take. With a great sense of discernment and courage, he followed his conscience, that is, the will of God speaking in his heart. And this example of our Father does such great good to us all, as an example to follow.
Our Lady, in her inmost depths with great simplicity was listening to and meditating on the Word of God and on what was happening to Jesus. She followed her Son with deep conviction and with steadfast hope. May Mary help us to become increasingly men and women of conscience, free in our conscience, because it is in the conscience that dialogue with God takes place; men and women, who can hear God’s voice and follow it with determination, who can listen to God’s voice, and follow it with decision.
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