Centro de Estudios Bíblicos “Xaire” Commentary on the Gospel reading for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June

30, 2013 cebxaire.wix.com/cebxaire – cebxaire@gmail.com Javier Del Ángel De los Santos Luke 9:51-62 Now it happened that as the time drew near for him to be taken up, he resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But he turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village. As they traveled along they met a man on the road who said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another to whom he said, “Follow me,” replied, “Let me go and bury my father first.” But he answered, “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.” Jesus said to him, “Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” In today's Gospel reading, we come across three verses (51-53) that have not been correctly translated from Greek to the modern languages. Precise translation is crucial to gaining an in-depth understanding of the message in today's Gospel reading. Understanding the evangelists' language and culture is always necessary. There is an expression found in the Old Testament, “turn one's face towards someone” , which signifies hostility, contempt and confrontation. For example in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, when we read, “Son of man, turn your face toward Jerusalem: preach against its sanctuary, prophesy against the land of Israel. ” (Ezekiel 21:7; Ezekiel 4:3,7; 6:2, 14:8, 5:7, 21:2, 25:2, 28:21, 29:2, 35:2 and 38:2) The evangelist has lifted this phrase from these Old Testament passages and has implanted it in today's Gospel reading. “Now it happened that as the time drew near for him to be taken up . . . .” Luke borrows this expression from 2 Kings 2:11 which describes Elijah being taken up to heaven. The evangelist is announcing not only Jesus' death but his exaltation. That is what he calls “being taken up”. In the Gospels according to Mark and Luke, Jesus “being taken up” signifies his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. The Gospel according to John calls this “being glorified”. (John 7:39;12, 16:23 and 13:31ss) “ . . . [H]e resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem . . .” The correct translation of the Greek text is: “he hardened his face in order to address himself to Jerusalem” . This phrase has the same meaning as the expression discussed at the beginning of this commentary, “turn one's face towards someone”. Consequently, Jesus' attitude towards Jerusalem is hostile. In effect, the evangelist has used the above mentioned text from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, “Son of man, turn your face toward Jerusalem: preach against its sanctuary, prophesy against the land of Israel. ” (Ezekiel 21:7) By the same token, Jesus hardens

the heretics (the Samaritans). That city is where Jesus will manifest God's authentic glory. the Samaritans are portrayed in a favorable light. almost always receive him. as we will see. ambition and violent zeal of these two. in other words. predicates a supposed salvation based on the number of prayers one recites. is God's face vengeful. “ . “against Jerusalem”. will seize power and then subject all the unfaithful and pagan people. maternal. In this case. . .(turns. that condemns. (John 4:39-41) When Jesus. let's see to whom Jesus turns his face: Jesus has decided to non-violently confront religious institution at its very core because it has usurped the name of God to the detriment of the human person. . the ones who fancy themselves as the possessors of the truth about God do not recognize him. punishing. from the face that promises a confrontation with the religious institution because it prevents the people from knowing the true. the religious institution. John 4:9b) In Luke's Gospel. which means the holy city. Luke refers to Jerusalem in two ways: “Ierousalém”. On the other hand. that imposes heavy burdens on the people rather than liberating them and that is incapable of being happy? “Seeing this. sad? Is God's face the face of a church that administers an eighth sacrament. They said.” The evangelist often points out the fanaticism. What kind of “face of God” do we present to others? What kind of face do we present to others? Is God's face paternal. . and sent messengers ahead of his face. the word “face” (prósopon) has been used three times in this Gospel passage. With this. and.” (The correct translation: “ . The number “three” indicates that something is complete and definite. in other words. . judgmental. . . . the number of times one receives the sacraments and the number of penitential acts one performs. proclaimed to be the Son of David. the Son of God. In Mark's Gospel. which means the geographic city. The religious authorities neither know God. “Ierosólima”. loving. the evangelist illustrates Jesus' firm determination to do away with an institution that presents an image of God that does not correspond to the reality of the God of Jesus: a father with a mother's sentiments: always loving and compassionate. speaks. “ahead of his face”. . fraternal. “Lord. punishes. the evangelist has used “Ierousalém”. loving face of God. including the Samaritans. Throughout his work (the Gospel and Acts of the Apostles). do you . Jesus nicknamed them Boanerges (Mark 3:17) which means “sons of thunder”. and sent messengers ahead of him.” (Correct translation: “the people would not receive him because his face was turned towards Jerusalem”. those who are rejected by the official institution. As we have seen. “ .) It seems like the Messiah who will make his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. to make preparations for him. and they went into a Samaritan village . compassionate and in solidarity? Or. who seeks only good and happiness for the human person.” We know that the Jews and the Samaritans had not gotten along for at least 700 years (2 Kings 17:24-41. Clearly. as people who have received Jesus' message. the disciples James and John .” ) The evangelist uses the word “angélous” which means “messenger”. Now. faithful. as well as in John's. Today's first invitation: Put our face in tun with God's face. . they do not host or accommodate him. directs) his face towards the city where the religious authorities live to symbolize the fact that God does not agree with what they are doing. but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. “These set out. nor do they allow others to know him. the “sacrament of customs” (that Pope Francis recently spoke of).

e.” In other words. there are many fanatics and fundamentalists (like Boanerges) in the church. To another. the evangelist now presents us with three anonymous persons who receive Jesus' invitation to radically sever themselves from their past. although James and John want to. this man's religious tradition is a world. a man full of religious zeal for God. 14) Today's second invitation: Opening and confidence. (Luke 9:50) “ . . violent.”. Jesus replies. “ . they had their places of refuge. Jesus did not come to start a feud or war between “truths”. and those who are against them. Mark 8:34) When there is an opening for everyone. the only truth is a freely chosen and practiced love that oriented towards the good of all human beings. has nowhere to lay his head. the terrible prophet who would kill his enemies. . . i. . yet. a father is responsible for transmitting religious tradition to his sons. venerate his religious tradition. “Leave the dead to bury their dead . their homes. . . Jesus sees James and John possessed by a fanatical. Jesus himself offers an invitation and says.” In the Greek text. Jesus had corrected James' and John's thought process about this.” Jesus replied.” Jesus does not retaliate against the Samaritans. above all. “ . . They are people who see themselves as possessors of the truth. and when we are authentic and true witnesses to the Good News. Recall from other commentaries that demonic spirits are often used in the Gospels to represent fanatical and violent religious ideologies that Jesus has come to expel from the people's mentality.” (Luke 9:23.want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” It's not that James and John had that power. nationalistic and dogmatic religious ideology (e. the man who has achieved the fulness of his humanity because he has accomplished in himself the divine plan. ” But. “I will follow you wherever you go. where the people had well received the word of God. .” Foxes and birds were considered the most insignificant and useless animals. we know that some Samaritans eventually understood Jesus' message inasmuch as one of the early Christian community's first missions was precisely to Samaria. Jesus says. . . For Jesus. We must understand that the evangelist wrote using imagery unique to his day and age and understood by the people of that day and age. Historically. . [Y]our duty is to go and . . . As Jesus and his disciples made their way down the road. the original verb translated into English as “rebuked” is “shouted at”. and they see the world divided into two groups: those who are with them. their families and. Moving on. populated by dead people and administered by dead people. . “ . . all of which represent tradition. grow healthy roots and bear good fruit. “But he turned and rebuked them . the invitee's father (who symbolizes the religious tradition that Jesus rejects) has died. their fathers. we can have confidence that the good seed we spread will eventually get planted in good soil. “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests . A few verses prior to today's Gospel reading. . The invitee wants to bury his father. [B]ut the Son of man . who would make fire rain down from the sky to punish his adversaries. and is the same verb the evangelist uses when Jesus expels demonic spirits. . In the Jewish tradition. “If anyone wishes to come after me. (Hebrews 8:4-8. That is exactly what happened with the Samaritans. “either you're with us or you're against us”) that stifles an authentic understanding of God's Plan to give life and joy to the world through love and compassion. “Follow me . Jesus rejects such thinking and behavior. . This imagery of calling down fire is taken from the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:10-14). that is Jesus.” This signifies how Jesus' people have excluded and misunderstood him and his message. and they went on to another village. Even today. . .g. . so to speak. someone said.

namely. The final part of today's Gospel reading reflects very well the attitude that some of us have. Jesus wastes no time in establishing the Kingdom (“lay the hand on the plow”). “Once the hand is laid on the plow. Jesus is not in agreement with any of this. in our own lives. group encounters. we will make mistakes as we journey through life. On the other hand. but. in today's Gospel. Or. . but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home. We want to know a lot about God through Bible study. seminars. Come what may. better a church that takes a risk by going out into the world. Whoever wastes time on obsolete things and traditions of the past (“who looks back”) is not suitable for this work. safe. “rising in power or prestige” and “being in control of others”. that stumbles and falls and that even gets dirty. . we don't want to commit ourselves in any practical way by sharing with others what we have learned or by putting the Father's Plan into action. one lives the values of “forgiving”. “I will follow you. spiritual exercises. . you have to put everything on the line to follow Jesus and you can't ever look back. Some of us Christians pass the time always looking for God. than a church that is sick and ailing from atrophy because it remains closed off. The new wine requires new wine skins. some of us live an intellectual Christianity. masses and rosaries. workshops. but we don't ever make the decision to put ourselves into action: “ . (Matthew 9:17) Today's third invitation: Decisiveness and perseverance. what is really important is that we learn from our mistakes so that when we stumble and fall. another one says. Or. we never feel ready or capable. sir.” We attend countless retreats. including and sharing with others. Finally. In a certain sense. not the latter. but that does consist of forgiving. no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to the former. “including” and “sharing”. an obsolete religious tradition. We have already discussed that the Kingdom of God is a society or culture that Jesus proposes in which. “healing”. healing. conferences. and that is understandable. we prefer to first bring everything full circle and first put our lives in order so that we can then follow Jesus. we get back up and keep walking: perseverance! As Pope Francis has said. in any practical way.spread the news of the kingdom of God. secure and quiet. we prefer to first quit being sinners and first feel fully forgiven so that we can then be missionaries.” “My people at home” is an expression that has the same significance as “my father”.” Anyone who receives Jesus needs to be completely open to the Good News of a Kingdom that does not consist of performing external purification rituals or endless prayers. or in religious laws that stifle authentic joy in the human person. rather than living the three values of “having or possessing things”. we never put ourselves into action! Some of us prefer to first “fill ourselves with God” so that we can then give him away to others. But. Jesus invites us to decisiveness and perseverance in order to establish what he calls the Kingdom of God: put the hand on the plow and not look back. but. The Good News of the Kingdom has no room for nostalgia for the past.” Jesus replies. Very likely. [Y]our duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.