Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, June 27, 2010:
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm: Psalm 16
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Second Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Gospel: Luke 9:51-62
I write this meditation on Thursday, June 24, the feast day of John the Baptist, which makes an interesting counterpoint to the Gospel lesson for Sunday. In the Gospel, we see Jesus headed towards Jerusalem. He meets people who want to go with him, and some of them he seems to turn away, by warning of a sort of homelessness, a psychic isolation that comes with nestlessness.
Other people he invites to follow him, and they want to, but they have these responsibilities that they need to attend to first. And just like that, they've lost their chance. Many of us must understand the plight of the man who needs to bury his father. In the time of Jesus, this obligation would have loomed even larger than it does today.
Jesus seems to suggest that we forsake family responsibilities, and this theme recurs periodically throughout the Gospels (and I always smile when I hear various religious types preach about the family friendly politics of Jesus--they've been reading different Gospel texts than I have). Or maybe he's suggesting that we shuck off the things which are already dead.
Our society gives us many rules and regulations that torment us as surely as the demons tormented the man in last Sunday's Gospel. Ask any sociologist, and they'll tell you that socialization binds us more thoroughly than any other aspect of our being. It's socialization that demands that we mop the floors when we'd rather be making music. It's socialization that tells us we must attend to our families in certain ways, even when those ways put our souls in danger.
Jesus warns us again and again of the dangers of taking our hands off the spiritual plow. Of course, most of us aren't leading agrarian lives anymore, so the metaphor may not be as powerful. But in our time of increasingly fragmented attention spans, the central message remains: Jesus tells us to keep the focus on him, not on our iPhones, our Blackberries, our iPads, our e-mail accounts, our televisions, all the screens which rule our lives.
The life of John the Baptist gives us a powerful role model. John the Baptist had a belief and a mission so powerful that he was willing to go into the wilderness and to eat locusts. Would you be willing to eat locusts?
If we're not willing to brave the wilderness for our faith, perhaps it's time to deepen that faith. If our mission doesn't move us to eat locusts, perhaps it's time to adjust the mission. What would excite you so powerfully that you would never lose your grip on that Gospel plow, that you would never look back? How can you get that excitement into your daily life?