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St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
I will follow you. (Luke 9:57)
Three stories begin in today’s Gospel reading—but we don’t know how they end! Each one features Jesus and a potential disciple. Let’s call them Volunteer One, Volunteer Two, and the Invitee.
Volunteer One enthusiastically pledges to follow Jesus “wherever you go” (Luke 9:57). Jesus invites him to examine his motives and to reconsider his offer. This isn’t going to be a rose-strewn path to worldly glory! Is Volunteer One ready for homelessness and rejection? For radical reliance on God rather than earthly security?
Volunteer Two starts off well by calling Jesus “Lord.” Then he spoils his offer with two telltale words: “but first …” (Luke 9:61). His request for a good-bye visit home seems innocent enough, but Jesus sees it for what it is: a conditional offer and a sign of divided loyalties. There is no looking back in the kingdom; no “but firsts”! This is something to remember when we’re tempted to put off prayer or a nudging from the Holy Spirit.
Sandwiched between this pair is the Invitee (Luke 9:59-60). He’s like Volunteer Two: willing to follow, but at a later date. Maybe even a much later date. The father he asks to go bury may be alive and well. Jewish burials took place on the day of death, so it’s unlikely that the Invitee would be out listening to Jesus on that very day. What he seems to mean is, “Let me stay home till whenever Dad dies. Then I’ll follow.” To which Jesus seems to answer him: Following me is the most important decision you could ever make. Don’t put it off. Don’t try to control the timing and circumstances. Just come—and come quickly!
This is Jesus’ word to us as well. In a sense, we are the Invitee and the Volunteers, our stories still unfolding. Will we say yes and enter into the never-ending story of being loved and called by God?
Which story speaks to you? Place yourself in it, then talk with Jesus from the heart.
“Here I am, Lord. Help me to follow you.”
Job 9:1-12, 14-16; Psalm 88:10-15
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