Gospel Reflection for June 26, 2022, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We return to the Sundays of Ordinary Time and are once again reminded of the power of the call to discipleship in Jesus that is a natural effect of the journey that we began with the First Day of Lent on March 2.

Through the two ensuing liturgical seasons and the special solemnities of the past two weeks, we have been preparing to enunciate our own “yes” to the invitation of Jesus. Throughout Lent we were drawn to seek forgiveness of our sins and to grow in holiness. In the Sacred Triduum we walked with the disciples through the great Paschal Mysteries that define our faith. In the Great Season of Easter, we listened to Jesus as he formed the disciples, preparing them for their apostolic mission. At Pentecost we, too, received anew the Holy Spirit. We then were challenged to profess our faith in the Trinitarian God and then to draw a focus to the on-going encounter we have with Jesus as he is physically made present to us in the Eucharist. 

Now, we walk with Jesus and today we encounter three different responses to Jesus, all of which are paths of discipleship that we can walk in our own lives. 

First, we encounter the arrogance of the disciples who want to bring about condemnation upon those who rejected Jesus and his mission. In their hubris they can become stumbling blocks to others instead of being messengers of mercy and justice. 

All too often we encounter those whose first response is to call down judgment. Not infrequently this happens on the parish level with either a staff member or even perhaps the pastor. This leaves persons often in pain having felt rejected, belittled and certainly not listened to. Jesus quickly rebukes his disciples for this response, though St. Luke does not tell us what Jesus said to them. In turn, Jesus rebukes us for our lack of pastoral sensibility, compassion and, yes, love.  

Second, we encounter a person who wants to follow Jesus, but Jesus senses that this person is not ready and offers the challenge: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Jesus here points out to this man that to follow Jesus means a loss of home and a sense of stability that a home gives to someone. In this way Jesus sets up a challenge to see if this person just wanted the prestige of being a disciple of a well-known teacher, or if his quest reflected a desire to really follow Jesus “wherever” he went. It is easy to want to be a disciple. It is also easy to want to enter religious life or the seminary, but it makes a demand of us. This is true on all levels of discipleship. As this person’s name is not mentioned, it is fair to suggest that It does not seem that he ever became one of their company.

Thirdly, Jesus encounters two men that he invites to become disciples. Both of them want to, but they wish to settle other things first. One man wants to bury his father and the other wants to say “good-bye” to his family. While we might see these as reasonable requests, neither meets the standard that Jesus sets for discipleship. 

“Yes ... but” is an often-heard reaction to a call to discipleship, and even the vocation call. Not long ago I heard that a young man commented that he knows that God is calling him to the priesthood but he doesn’t want to do it. Often enough we want to deal with God on our terms, not on his terms. Ultimately, this is a no-win situation for us. Even when called by the Lord, many of us are uncomfortable leaving our own comfort zones. 

We know that those chosen as the Twelve all responded immediately to the call of Jesus. When we linger or are in doubt, we have allowed the concerns of this world to overcome us, and we lose sight of the Kingdom of God. 

Discipleship cannot be a “yes … but” response to the Lord; it can only be an unequivocal “yes.”

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.