The decision to follow Jesus must be prompt and decisive – and you better be prepared to leave behind the comforts of home. This is a message not only for the individual but for the entire Church.
That was the theme of Pope Francis June 30, 2019, before praying the noonday Angelus with a large crowd in St. Peter’s Square. The crowd braved a record European heat wave, sprouting umbrellas to shield against the sun pouring down from a bright blue sky.
The Pope spoke on the day’s Gospel (Luke 9:51-62) where the apostle begins the story of Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem and recalls three would-be disciples and the Lord’s response to them.
“The first personage promises Him: “I will follow you wherever you go” (v. 57). He is generous!” the Holy Father said. “However, Jesus answers that, unlike the foxes that have holes, and the birds that have nests, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (v. 58) — Jesus’ absolute poverty.”
With that response, the Pope explained, Jesus recognizes the person’s willingness but reminds him that it will be a difficult path ahead. After all, Jesus has given up everything to follow his vocation.
The second personage, Francis continued, wants to follow Jesus but asks first to bury his deceased father. The Pope admits this is something reasonable but Jesus has a different response: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead” (v. 60).
“With these words, willingly provocative, He intends to affirm the primacy of the following and of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, even over the most important realities, such as the family,” the Pope said. “The urgency to communicate the Gospel, which breaks the chain of death and inaugurates eternal life, doesn’t admit delays but calls for promptness and availability. Therefore, the Church is itinerant, and here the Church is resolute; she acts in a hurry, at the moment, without waiting.”
Finally, the Pope addressed the situation of a third personage. He also wanted to follow Jesus but asked first to say goodbye to his parents. Again, this was a reasonable request but Jesus’ response was firm: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God” (v. 62).
“To follow Jesus, the Church is itinerant, she acts immediately, in a hurry and resolute,” Francis insisted. “The value of these conditions set by Jesus — itinerancy, promptness, and decision — doesn’t lie in a series of ‘no’s’ said to good and important things of life. Rather, the accent is put on the main objective: to become a disciple of Christ!”