Reflection on Luke 9:51-62 Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Most of us would remember those words by George W. Bush when he declared after 9/11: ‘…..Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorist.’ The black and white nature of this shocking statement was perhaps the commencement of a new era of entrenched polarisation. There was no middle ground tolerated. No tolerance. No compassion. No self-reflection. If you don’t agree with us, then you are the enemy. How much this divisive attitude has crept further into our Western culture. It has divided and separated us in so many areas. We see this attitude present in the disciples in this Gospel: ‘Lord, do you want us to send down fire from heaven to burn them up?, because the Samaritan village would not accept Jesus as he was going to Jerusalem – the enemy territory.
There have always been intolerance, wars, and tensions between various countries, clans and families. But the ‘middle ground’ has also had a voice and presence. But today, Jesus ‘rebukes the disciples, and walks off to another village’ – one that would accept them. If we could only heed this initial advice from Jesus today. Do not create an enemy or bring down punishment, simply move in another direction – move on. Instead for some strange reason, now we seem to prefer to lock horns instead of agreeing to disagree. If we look at church, politics, stands on climate change, the attacks on our free press, the conservative and progressives within anything, there is such a shocking tendency now to demonise the other, to want to even destroy them. We seem fixed on taking sides, standing our ground AT ANY COST and refusing to listen to other opinions, other attitudes. We are losing our ability to tolerate difference, and it is extremely dangerous. We have a number of ‘loose cannons’ in high powered government positions that adopt this attitude with an almost triumphant glory attached to it. That’s how embedded it has become. We must not allow these so called ‘leaders’, which they are not, to dictate and influence our own behaviors and attitudes. These type of leaders, so often, play on our collective weaknesses, particularly our fears. To play their demonising games is to give them even more power. There is no integrity, no authenticity, and certainly no HONOUR here. Why would we want that for ourselves, our families, and our countries? It is a road leading us almost certainly to perdition. Is that what we want? I cannot believe it is.
So what does it look like to ‘follow Jesus’? We seem to so easily say we are followers of Jesus, but are we really? Words don’t cut it. When we pray, whether it verbal or silent prayer, what are we doing? Do we live what we speak, what we practice? To truly follow Jesus, in a most profound way, is to be homeless anywhere where Love is not lived – ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’. Not in the context we think of homeless, but in the context of Love, that goes where it wills, without exception, without resistance, without fear. This is what we might call detachment from anything that is obstructive toward Love. To ‘follow Jesus’ is to be OPEN to this truth. It doesn’t mean for one moment that we are perfect in Love, but it means that if we ‘follow Jesus’ we will be taught daily, we will learn daily what it means to open into this Creative Love. This is a lifelong process. For too long we have believed that to ‘receive’ the sacraments was all that was required. There was little sense of personal and communal responsibility. We could still be absolute tyrants in our daily lives or have little concept of growing in Love, but because we attended the obligatory liturgies, and availed ourselves of the sacraments, that somehow all was well with God. Do we really believe in such a paper mache god? There are still many who believe this sadly. It comes down largely to a shocking failure of many religions and their leadership and the faithfuls ignorance to accept without questioning. Jesus challenges us otherwise today.
To ‘follow Jesus’ also means that we come to a place where everything we do is about awakening ourselves and others to Love. We no longer feel obliged to conform to this or that expectation, or are pulled with a sense of pseudo responsibility in every which way that directs us away from Love. As we open into this Love more and more, our direction becomes clearer. We no longer put priorities on anything that takes us away from what it is to Love. We become a discerning people focused on what gives Life, not offers death. Very often our families, friends, communities and work places etc., can lock us into a life that restricts us and drives us into a life of conformity and lived expectations. Love is beholden to none of this. Love is always free. Yes, people will sometimes be hurt. Jesus hurt many people, but those that could truly Listen, grew through it and came to a deeper place of Love themselves. Those who hold the hurt and throw blame are the ones that go against Love.
Finally, so many of us want the best of both worlds. We want to feel like we are doing all the right things in the context of Love, but we also feel compelled to live up to the cultural expectations, demands and dictates. It is a difficult path to walk because to step outside these dictates and expectations, often alienates us. We so often lack the courage to be vulnerable (as Brene Brown repeatedly teaches). But when we do, door after door will open.
Mostly, we spend our lives being reactionary to the life around us with its events, expectations and conformities. Life’s demands seem to overtake us in many ways and tend to crush our Hearts, not grow them. We are birthed to be responsive to Love – that is our primary purpose. We must learn to discern carefully, question consciously, and learn to walk into our fears if we are to be responsive to Love. We must examine our yes’s and no’s with great scrutiny and trust what we discover in this examination. It will teach us that Love is no feel good passive Energy, it is Creative and Courageous and it oozes FREEDOM – freedom to Love in the most difficult places, in the most alienating of places, and in the most surprising places. Love always moves us forward toward Wholeness, it doesn’t look back with a dualistic mentality. Today Jesus challenges us to consider what it truly means to ‘follow’, and to awaken to what we really follow in our daily lives. Whatever our answer, whatever our struggles, Love walks with us, Gracing us to Listen, Listen, Listen, Listen. Nothing else matters.