Last week Jesus challenged us with these words, If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. What I find amazing is that Jesus never asks us to do things that he doesn’t demand of himself. Luke tells us this Sunday that Jesus was resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem. It is important to realize that Jesus knew his journey to Jerusalem would result in his passion. Jesus is going to take up his cross and to die for us. We know this is absolutely true because a couple of chapters later in the Gospel of Luke Jesus says to the disciples, I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem (Lk 13:33).
But Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem is also a symbolic act for the disciples. He teaches them how to take up their cross by doing it himself first. Again he is resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem; the place that he will ultimately die for us.
This word, resolutely, sticks out to me this week. To be resolute means to be firmly resolved, determined, or my favorite definition admirably purposeful. (Greek: sterizo to be fixed firmly). It seems to me that this is the challenge from Jesus to all of us this weekend; to be resolute, or admirably purposeful, in our call to be disciples of Christ.
About five years ago, my brother and I were having a deep conversation with one another. When I first entered college at Central Michigan, my brother was already a student at the University. At the time I couldn’t wait to go to Mass with my brother at the student parish. However, I quickly realized that Dave was not in the same place spiritually. My brother didn’t want to go to Mass. During our conversation Dave said to me, “Stephen, I just need time in my own faith journey right now. I do not do things half-way, I give everything. If I’m going to buy into our Catholic Faith I want to be able to give everything first.” I appreciated his honesty with me. I encouraged him and said I was their to walk with him on the journey. Today, he is a husband and father, and even a cantor at his parish. Today he is admirably purposeful in his faith, and I’m very proud of him. What my brother’s experience teaches us is that “no one should accept Jesus’ call to discipleship without giving it careful consideration personally, physically, and spiritually.” Once the decision is made, however, there is no turning back. Jesus wants us to be resolutely determined in following him. Our lives are forever changed.
This is what Jesus desires of all of us, to be resolute in our discipleship. In our Gospel today, Jesus encounters many on the journey who are not yet ready to be resolute in their faith. They are holding on to other things. You can hear the sadness in Jesus’ voice as he has been passed over for other things by people; Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.
So, how do we become resolute disciples of Christ? It means being ready to leave old ways of living behind. These are those unhealthy habits, bad attitudes, grudges, angers and sins that hold us back from following the Lord fully. We find great encouragement for this from our first reading. Elisha is called by Elijah to become a prophet. So he goes back and gets rid of all of his wealth (livestock), feeds the people with food from the animals, and goes resolutely to follow Elijah. The challenge for us is to prayerfully consider what are those unhealthy habits, bat attitudes, grudges, angers, and sins that we need to let go of to follow Christ?
In the second reading, Saint Paul encourages us with these hopeful words: He says, Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. We can be confident that through Christ we are truly set free. Following Christ on the journey to Jerusalem means turning away from these old ways of living. It means allowing Christ to enter into our hearts so that we can turn unhealthy habits into healthy ones, bad attitudes into good ones, grudges and anger into forgiveness, and healing from our sins.
Recently, I saw a powerful post on Facebook regarding Pope Francis. He was sharing his nightly routine of prayer. Before going to bed, our Pope prays, “Lord if you want, you can make me clean”. Then meditating on the five wounds of Christ, Pope Francis prays for interior conversion. Francis recognizes the call to turn away from old ways of living. He also believes in the freedom that Christ brings to us.
This is something we can all ask ourselves each day? Is my Christian Faith, is my personal relationship with Jesus something that I am purposefully resolute about? Let Pope Francis be an encouragement to all of us, to commit ourselves to praying a simple examination of conscience at the end of each day.
Today as we receive this holy Eucharist, may we recognize God’s grace in our lives to turn away from these old ways of living so that we can be resolute in our Discipleship of Christ.