The disciples in this gospel passage, Luke 9: 51-62, just can’t figure out what following Jesus really means. They are filled with pride and ego, thinking that if they follow him then they must keep the Samaritans away from them. Jesus is trying to invest in his new followers and they are missing the mark.
Jesus tells the disciples that there is no place for him to lay his head. In other words, nothing permanent is given the disciple. The disciple will not have certainty, false power or false pride. They must become people of love, people who follow Jesus’ commands. The disciples say they can pull it off, that they will follow him without reservation.
However, the disciples come up with many excuses not to follow Jesus. They must go and bury a relative. They ask to say goodbye to their families. In between the words, we can feel the hesitation. Here, the rubber meets the road. They realize that following Jesus means they risk much of what is familiar, ordinary and well established. They must learn to let go of all the attachments of their hearts and lives.
Now we have celebrated all the major feasts of Easter and Pentecost and beyond. The sacred liturgy invites us to put what we believe into practice. Yet, we find our lives and our faith much like the disciples. We are lukewarm in our following; we are reluctant to let go of what is comfortable in our lives. Worse yet, we are filled with many excuses.
Real conversion takes time. In fact, it takes a lifetime. To let go of our human attachments of power, pride and self-sufficiency, is a process that few people will enter into. Conversion does not mean only following Church rules. It means finding in our hearts the person of Christ Jesus who leads us into life, hope, love and service. This conversion process is radical. It changes our perspectives, our concerns and how we live our daily lives.
I invite you to consider this week all of the excuses you have for not following Jesus with more intention and with more purpose. Here are some excuses to consider: I don’t have time. I don’t know how to follow. I don’t know enough to follow. I don’t know enough about scripture. I am not interested in faith. I don’t get Jesus in the first place. Showing up to Mass is good enough. Faith is for prudes. My heart holds only my opinions. My faith and politics are good enough. I have to fold my socks.
Jesus is asking us to make room for him in our hearts in order to change the world. If we can give our lives to him, he will invite us to welcome the stranger, to offer solace to the frightened and listen to the discouraged. If we can learn to let go of our excuses to follow Jesus, he will show us a new path of kindness that will change our lives and those around us.
We live in times of violence and corruption and many of our youth are depressed and discouraged about life. We need to be radically transformed into people who hold hope within our hearts. We need Jesus today more than ever.