HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 9:51-62
While journeys can be excitingly joyous affairs, they can also be dangerous. As one embarks for passage to a desired destination, the route may hold anxious and possibly perilous challenges for the adventurous traveler. Indeed, travel must be undertaken with the utmost care. Consider the following news clip that appeared some years back:
“Barbara Walters did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan, several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked 5 paces behind their husbands. She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands. From Ms. Walters’ vantage point, despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the women now seem to walk even further back behind their husbands and are happy to maintain the old custom.
Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, ‘Why do you now seem happy with the old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?’ The woman looked Ms. Walters straight in the eyes and without hesitation, said ‘Land mines.’” (Original source unknown)
Yes, travel can be a dangerous venture as one delicately negotiates a roadway concealing land mines, be they real or proverbial. But what makes the journey worth the price is the desired goal. As one gingerly steps over and around the explosives along the way, one eye remains fixed on the prize, the destination that makes it all worthwhile. It’s the lesson Jesus offers us today.
The very first sentence of the gospel passage sets an ominous tone. “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) I can picture Jesus setting his jaw in determination at the prospect of the difficult journey that will, in fact, have lethal results. But it is a journey that must be made because the final destination (heaven) is worth the price of the trip (death).
Indeed, it’s the journey each of us must make in our following of Jesus. Try as we might, we just can’t get to heaven without first dying. It’s the only route. And so we pray that, like Jesus, we can set our own jaws in hope-filled determination as we focus more on the glorious destination than on the dread journey.
But that journey we’ll one day make to the heavenly Jerusalem may be far off—and it’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Meanwhile, there are numerous other non-lethal but definitely perilous journeys we must make on this earth. And most of them do not involve actual physical travel. I’m thinking of the challenge of negotiating human relationships—another sort of dangerous passage for sure. And there are land mines all along the roadway! It’s likely we’ve all stepped on a few already and bear the psychic bruises that testify to a poorly chosen word, an incredulous facial expression, a dismissive gesture.
The gospel passage we hear today begins with the assertion that the journey from earth to heaven will be difficult. And we’ll all get to make the journey for sure. But all those smaller journeys before the great departure—what of them? What of the opportunities for deepening human relationships that may well bring to earth something of heaven’s joy were we courageous enough to speak the truth? While avoidance is the easier way to meet the challenge and, sadly, the route more often taken, doesn’t Jesus this day encourage us to “take the road less traveled,” the road that, though possibly fraught with land mines, will bring us nearer heaven?