Do you remember your first encounter with Christ?
“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Do you ever think about those first women and men who followed Jesus? We hear about them all the time in the gospels. After all, they were the ones to whom Jesus’ wise words were addressed. They were the sick and broken individuals calling out for healing and wholeness. Without them, we wouldn’t have the great stories of forgiveness, as Jesus reached out a loving hand and shared a meal with everyone who came to him with an open heart. They are an essential part of Jesus’ mission.
As we reflect on those crowds following Jesus—including the would-be followers mentioned in this Sunday’s Gospel—we might ask: Why were they following him?
Was it because they had heard about this great wonder-worker and wise man who was teaching their old faith in a new way? Possibly.
Were they just curious, hoping to see a miracle—maybe someone walking or seeing for the first time in decades… someone being raised from the dead? Maybe.
Their inspiration might have been something as simple as their friends and neighbors saying, “Hey, did you hear about that teacher from Nazareth? We’re going to take lunch and go hear him preach on the mountainside, today. Why don’t you join us?” My guess is that there was a lot of that.
But, I think what happened more often was that the people who heard Jesus teach and preach, who saw the wonders he performed, were changed by the experience. They encountered God in a new way and were so excited that they wanted to share it. Maybe they were so energized that they couldn’t not talk about it. After all, how many of us feel that way about a movie or book that touched us, or even when we have a good piece of gossip? So, why wouldn’t those women and men, so many centuries ago, have shared the good news about this Jesus in the same way?
Thus Sunday’s Gospel begins with Saint Luke telling us that “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” What follows—both in this Sunday’s Gospel and in the passages from Luke’s Gospel we will hear in coming weeks—helps us see Jesus as the great Prophet making his way to Jerusalem, teaching about God’s Kingdom, conversion, and discipleship.
This Sunday’s Gospel, with its various sections, invites us to ask ourselves a question: Why am I following Jesus?
This a question that we should ask ourselves often, if not every day.
God has reached out to each of us, calling us to follow his Son—to continue that work. For some of us, this call might have been a dramatic experience of God’s grace breaking into our life in a time of crisis or joy. For most of us, it’s less dramatic. We have a sense that this is the path that they should be on. I know that for myself, it’s a mix. I’ve always been a “churchy” kind of guy—and I am a religious—but I can also recognize graced moments when I seem to be getting a “yes” from God—yes, this is the direction I should be moving; yes, this is how I can best continue the work of Jesus, right now. How has God spoken to you?
Was it in a happy moment from your childhood, maybe a holiday with loud relatives and too much food?
Was it in the first smile you shared with your spouse or significant other?
Was it in the birth of a child or grandchild?
Did you hear God speaking when your friend called and told you that he had just been diagnosed with cancer?
Was it when you heard about yet another senseless act of violence in the news?
God uses the everyday moments of our lives—both the happy and the sad—to invite us to follow, to renew our “Yes!” to being the presence of Jesus in the world.
When we say “Yes” and set out to follow the way He showed us, we are given the privilege to share in God’s work of creating a more beautiful, more sane, and more sacred world.
How are the readings this Sunday inviting you to follow Jesus more faithfully?
When has God’s grace broken through to you, helping you discern God’s will for you?
What prevents you from saying an unhesitating “Yes!” to Jesus’ invitation?