Jesus reveals that only those with complete commitment to Him are fit for His Kingdom. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Diligence so he can flee lukewarmness and zealously seek Jesus and by pursuing the Virtue of Duty so he can do his sacred duty to bury the dead with a reverent Catholic funeral.
26th Week in Ordinary time – Wednesday – Lk 9:57-62
As His several-year missionary campaign in Galilee and elsewhere comes to a close, Jesus turns toward His Holy city of Jerusalem to be “received up”; this refers to His glorious entry into Jerusalem, His proclamations in the Temple, His Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension. After a village in Samaria refuses to receive Him, Jesus “set His face” towards Jerusalem, a steely determination to do God the Father’s will which echoes Isaiah’s prophecy that the Suffering Servant will set his “face like flint” against his enemies (Is 50:7).
Jesus calls every man to have an exclusive and absolute commitment to Him as they seek to enter into His Kingdom of Heaven. Traveling on, Jesus warns one enthusiastic man who wishes to follow Him to expect hardship as a disciple (nowhere to lay one’s head). To another who wishes to be a disciple but first asks to fulfill the noble duty to bury his dead father, Jesus offers a blunt and highly provocative rebuke (let the dead bury the dead) to warn those who wish be disciples that they must have an urgent and absolute commitment to follow Him.
Another man, approaching Jesus with great respect, even calling Him, “Lord”, promises to follow Jesus, but requests permission to bid his family farewell. Again, Jesus makes it clear that His displaces must have an absolute commitment, and Jesus that those who weakly long for their old life (look back) are not worthy of the manly vocation (the plow) of being a disciple of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ requirement for this kind of absolute commitment and obedience is stunning; it exceeds the demands of the Old Testament prophet Elijah, who allowed his disciple Elisha to say goodbye to his parents (1 Kings 19:19-21).
Be awed by Jesus Christ
Be impressed with the Physical Strength, Stamina and Toughness of Jesus: prepared by decades of strenuous labor as a first century carpenter (builder), during three years of public ministry, Jesus kept a grueling schedule and traveled extensively on foot (some suggest Jesus walked 25,000 miles, the circumference of the earth); Jesus reveals He has no home, to “lay His head”, confirming that He often slept outside in the elements.
Flee lukewarmness and zealously seek Jesus
Realize: Many Catholic men exhaust their intellects and energies in pursuing pleasure and power in the world, but are lukewarm in faith (acedia, sloth), failing to zealously give themselves to Jesus and the pursuit of holiness; Jesus demands absolute commitment and judges that the lukewarm are not “fit for the Kingdom of God”, an ominous warning about the very real possibility of spending eternity in Hell, forever separated from God.
Believe: Reflect upon the deadly sin of Acedia/Sloth (CCC 1866, 2094, 2733).
Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Virtue, help me build the Virtue of Diligence (a part of Temperance) so that I reject Sloth, burn with the desire to give myself completely to You and Your Holy Catholic Church, and strive to grow in holiness each day.
Bury the dead with a reverent Catholic funeral
Realize: Jesus’ provocative statement, “Let the dead bury the dead”, is not a rejection of Christian burial, for Jesus Himself is buried in the Holy Sepulcher, but instead is an emphatic command to put discipleship above all other things.
Believe: Reflect upon the important duty to Bury the Dead (CCC 1680-1690, 2300-2301, 2447).
Pray: Almighty Father, help me build the Virtue of Duty/Responsibility (a part of Justice) so I fulfill my responsibility to bury the dead consistent with Catholic teachings, and to never sin by disrespecting the body (scattering ashes).