Letting the Dead Bury the Dead

In today’s Gospel the long and hard journey of Jesus continues from the periphery of Galilee toward the capital city. Leaving Galilee, Jesus enters in Samaria and continues toward Jerusalem. But not all understand him. Many abandon him, because the demands are enormous. But others get close to him and present themselves to follow Jesus. At the beginning of his pastoral activity in Galilee, Jesus had called three: Peter, James and John (Lk 5, 8-11). Here also, in Samaria there are three persons who present themselves or who are called. In the responses of Jesus there are the requirements or conditions in order to be able to be his disciples.

Luke 9, 56-58: The first one of the three new disciples. At that time, as they traveled along, they met a man who said to Jesus, “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”. To this first person who wants to be his disciple, Jesus asks him to divest himself of everything: he has nowhere to lay his head; much less should he seek a false security where to lay the thoughts of his head.

Luke 9, 59-60: The second one of the three new disciples. To another one he says “Follow me”. And he replied, “Let me go and bury my father first”. Jesus replied: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God”. To this second person called by Jesus to follow Him, he asks him to leave the dead bury the dead. It is a question of a popular saying used to say: leave aside the things of the past. Do not lose time with what happened and look ahead. After having discovered the new life in Jesus, the disciple should not lose time with what has happened.

Luke 9, 61-62: The third one of the three new disciples. “Another said: I will follow you, Sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home”. But Jesus replied: once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God”. To this third person called to be a disciple, Jesus asks to break the family bonds of union. On another occasion he had said: Anyone who loves his father and his mother more than me cannot be my disciple (Lk 14, 26; Mt 10, 37). Jesus is more demanding than the Prophet Elijah who allowed Elisha to greet and take leave from his parents (1 K 19, 19-21). This also means to break the nationalistic bonds of race and the patriarchal family structure.

These are three fundamental requirements as necessary conditions for those who want to be the disciples of Jesus: (a) to abandon material goods, (b) not to be attached to personal goods lived and accumulated in the past (c) to break away from the family bonds. In reality, nobody, even wishing it, can break neither the family bonds, nor break away from things lived in the past. What is asked is to know how to re-integrate everything (material goods, personal life and family life) in a new way around the new axis which is Jesus and the Good News of God which he has brought to us.

Jesus himself, lived and became aware of what he was asking to his followers. With his decision to go up to Jerusalem Jesus reveals his project. His journey toward Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51 a 19, 27) is represented as the undertaking (Lk 9, 51), the exodus (Lk 9, 31) or the crossing (Lk 17, 11). Arriving in Jerusalem Jesus fulfills the exodus, the undertaking or the definitive crossing from this world toward the Father (Jn 13, 1). Only a truly free person can do this, because such an exodus presupposes to dedicate one’s whole life for the brothers (Lk 23, 44-46; 24, 51). This is the exodus, the crossing, the undertaking of which the communities should become aware in order to be able to carry on Jesus’ project.

Personal questions

● Compare each one of these three requirements with your life.
● Which are the problems that arise in your life as a consequence of the decision which you have taken to follow Jesus?

Concluding prayer

Yahweh, you examine me and know me, you know when I sit, when I rise, you understand my thoughts from afar. (Ps 139,1-2)

Note: Catholic Exchange would like to humbly thank the Carmelites at ocarm.org for this fine homily.

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