|1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21
||Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
||Gal 5:1, 13-18
Road trip: discipleship’s constant choice
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask us to reflect on the continuing choice of discipleship.
The first reading, from the book of Kings, is the story of the prophet Elijah’s call of Elisha. When Elijah throws his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders, Elijah signals that Elisha has become his servant. Elisha’s acceptance and response–sacrificing his oxen–signifies a radical change from his former life. The Lectionary editors chose this reading for its parallels to Jesus’ call of disciples in today’s gospel.
The second reading continues Paul’s letter to the ekklasiais (believing communities) in Galatia. Paul elaborates on what believers are called to do and to be: believers fulfill the law by love of neighbor (Gal 5:14-15), and by walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-26), as illustrated by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. For Paul, faith–an individual’s recognition of Jesus’ saving act–results in a believer’s choice to love God and the neighbor.
Luke’s gospel opens with Jesus “setting his face resolutely to Jerusalem.” He ends his Galilean ministry and begins his “journey to Jerusalem,” the place where prophets die. Luke uses the word ὁδός (hoh-DOS), translated as “the journey,” “the road,” or “the way” as a metaphor or byword for discipleship. Jesus gives many teachings about discipleship while he is “on the way” to Jerusalem. In today’s reading, Jesus addresses discipleship’s severity and unconditional nature. Proclaiming the kingdom takes precedence over everything else, including family duties and obligations. Jesus invites many to journey with him, but they are full of excuses:
- I will follow wherever you go: This would-be disciple casually commits to Jesus’ mission without understanding the personal cost (“wherever you go”). Jesus tells him discipleship means giving up the security of home and family (“nowhere to rest his head”).
- Let me bury my father: This would-be disciple wants to delay joining Jesus’ mission (“after my parents are dead”). Jesus tells him that the kingdom is now, and that those called to the kingdom (“Follow me!”) cannot be distracted by others who are not part of the kingdom (“let the spiritually dead worry about worldly things”).
- Let me say goodbye to my family: Like Elisha in the first reading, this world-be disciple wavers in his discipleship (“let me say goodbye”). Jesus tells him he must commit to the kingdom (“set his hand to the plow”). Elisha accepts Elijah’s invitation; Jesus’ would-be disciple chooses the familiar over the kingdom.
Each of us in the believing community has heard Jesus’ say: “Follow me!” Each of us must choose every day to follow Jesus. The journey is difficult but joyful. Do I really understand what Jesus asks? Have I become distracted? Am I looking back? Am I walking the road to Jerusalem today?
|Wis: 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24
||Ps 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
||2 Cor 8: 7, 9, 13-15
||Mk 5: 21-43
Power over sin, power over death
In Ordinary time, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all believing community members with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The first reading and gospel reading carry the theme for the week; the second reading is a continuing reading from Paul’s letters. This week Jesus shows us through his “acts of power” that he has power over sin and death.
The first reading is from the book of Wisdom, written between 100-28 BC. The Wisdom author affirms that the Creator did not “make death.” Humans, who share in God’s image, are “imperishable.” A human’s physical body may end with physical death, but a human’s spirit continues after his or her physical existence ends. However, the “imperishable” part can suffer a spiritual death–not from God, but from forces opposed to God. The devil, envious of God’s goodness, brought envy and sin to humans. Sin (literally “harmartia” or “missing the mark”) separates humans from God. Separation from God is spiritual death.
Today’s gospel uses a Markian “sandwich” form. Mark starts the Jairus’ daughter story, interrupts it with the story of the hemorrhaging woman, then completes the first story.
- The woman with a flow of blood. The hemorrhaging woman touches Jesus’ garments in hope of being healed. Under Jewish law, this woman was considered ritually unclean, would have been viewed as sinful, and would not be allowed to participate in the community or the Temple. In the crowd’s crush Jesus feels power (Greek: δύναμις [DYE-na-mis]) “go out from him.” “Who touched me?” he asks. Terrified, the woman prostrates herself before (literally “worships”) Jesus and “admits the truth.” Jesus recognizes her faith (“your faith has saved you.”) By healing her, Jesus removes her sin and restores her to community life. This healing ties back to spiritual death–sin or hamartia–described in today’s first reading.
- Jairus’ daughter. Jairus, a synagogue leader, asks Jesus to “put a hand on” his sick daughter “that she may be healed (literally ‘saved’) and live.” In route to Jairus’ house, Jesus and Jairus hear his daughter has died. On arrival, Jesus takes the child’s hand Jesus says (in Aramaic), “Little girl, arise.” The girl rises up and begins “walking around.” The girl’s rising from the dead foreshadows Jesus’ own death and resurrection. Because this hasn’t happened yet, Jesus urges the parents and disciples to maintain his messianic secret. This healing shows that God’s power extends over physical death: “he does not rejoice in destruction of living things” in today’s first reading.
These two stories tell us that Jesus, as God, has power over not only spiritual death (sin) but physical death as well.
This week RCIA participants and the entire believing community rejoice in Jesus’ saving power over our two greatest fears: sin and death. God is the author of life, not death. Like the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus tells us our faith heals and saves us from sin. Like Jairus, in the face of physical death, Jesus tells us don’t be afraid–have faith. Easy to say, but hard to do. We live our faith one moment at a time; sometimes we miss the mark of keeping faith. Jesus, however, is constant: don’t be afraid. Can we hear him over the pressing crowd and wailing mourners?