Reflection on This Week’s Readings

A GRAVE MISUNDERSTANDING

When was the last time you were misunderstood? Was it a social media post taken in a way you didn’t intend? A conversation with a relative that turned unintentionally tense? Maybe it was when you were giving directions to your children and they ended up lost or doing the wrong thing.

It’s frustrating to be misunderstood, especially by those you love. In today’s gospel reading Jesus is misunderstood by just about everyone. We find him today setting his “face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), an ominous phrase intended to give the hearers of this text a sense of the foreboding future: confrontation, crucifixion, and the grave.

The Samaritans (outcasts in the eyes of the Judeans) didn’t understand his singular mindset. Neither do the disciples, who think he may want vengeance when truly he is seeking purposeful peace. His followers want to clear up tasks and other duties before walking the road he is walking. What none of them understand is that where Jesus is going and what he is about to do will require his full attention, his full body, his full heart. He cannot be stopped, he has no heart for retribution, and he has no time for other tasks; salvation is at hand.

It’s a grave misunderstanding.

On this final Sunday in June we find Jesus making clear that God’s gracious work will take undivided attention and deserves ours, because the love of God seen through Christ will redeem our whole selves: the parts of our being that feel like outcasts, the parts of our hearts that desire vengeance over forgiveness, and the distracted parts of our heads that just don’t seem to understand God’s mission.

God’s work in Jesus is comprehensive. We often have a hard time understanding this because our world is fragmented, distracted, and distracting in so many ways. But if there’s any misunderstanding today, the singular focus of Jesus provides clarity.

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READINGS FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
We continue through Luke’s gospel and Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This week’s dates include June 29, the annual commemoration of the apostle Paul.

 

Now it is we who are called both to tolerate nonbelievers and to leave all to follow Christ as we proclaim the kingdom. The challenge is to apply the radicalness of Jesus’ words to our lives in the world.

 

This passage is set parallel to Luke 9 since also Elijah demands of Elisha a total rejection of his previous life as he dons the mantle of the prophet to proclaim the word of God. The parallel makes clear that the evangelists understood Jesus’ ministry in light of Israel’s prophetic tradition.

 

When we don the mantle of our baptism and follow Jesus, our lives are radically changed, from actions that protect and aggrandize the self to attitudes that value and nurture the community. For such a life we are empowered, not by any inherent human inclinations, but rather by the Spirit of the risen Christ. Would that “the works of the flesh” are as obvious as Paul suggests.

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