All too often religion can become a way to escape from the drama of life and not to deal with it.
Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
Three ways of following are recounted in today’s Gospel. The first person seems to offer the Lord all his readiness, but Jesus does not accept it:
“‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’”
We infer from Jesus’ response that this man was looking to Christ for a “den,” that is, for reassurance, but all too often religion can become a way to escape from the drama of life and not to deal with it.
In the second case, it is Jesus who takes the initiative, but the response seems to put a serious impediment to this proposal:
“To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, let me go first and bury my father.’ But he answered him, ‘Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.’”
Obviously, Jesus does not want to downplay the responsibility we have to our parents – that would be like inviting us to break one of the commandments – but he wants to warn us against living life as a hostage to other people’s expectations, be they even the expectations of our parents. Following Jesus means taking responsibility for our own life and not for others’ dreams about us.
The third and final option seems more of a compromise, but again Jesus calls for radicality:
“And another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.’ Jesus answered him, ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what is left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
One cannot make important choices by seeking compromises. The things that matter are always all or nothing.
In summary: “No” to Jesus as an escape route! “No” to excuses! “No” to compromises!
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.