That we are a pilgrim people should be no surprise to any of us. Followers of Christ know that we are on a journey to, hopefully, our heavenly home. But an interesting thing about the word ‘pilgrim’ is that it comes from a root word, which means, originally, one who is outside – a foreigner; and that is who we are. Disciples are a pilgrim people who are outside of this ‘house of the world’, and we are looking in – we are foreigners; or least we should be.
Today’s Gospel speaks to us about what it means to be a disciple. We hear Christ tell those around Him and us: ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’ This tells us what our status is. Christ expects His disciples to be those who, though living among the ‘flesh’ (as St. Paul stated in the 2nd reading) should be apart from it. We are not here to participate in the fallen nature that is mankind’s heavy chain – but are here to shed light on the traps of the ‘flesh’. We are here to point out that the prince of this house, Satan, is working against us to trap us in this existence of ‘fleshly’ desires and appetites – so as to stop us from gaining the house of our Father, where true delight, peace and joy reside; where we can truly be whole. For those with eyes to see, we are saddened by how society continuously follows the prince of the world into his insidious trap. Pope Francis talked about how this happens in a May 4th homily: “‘…the prince of the world hates us. And what he did with Jesus (with the temptations in the desert) he does with us.’ With a little word here, a trifle there, ‘he will lead us down a path of injustice’ It begins with the little things, ‘softening us’ to the point that ‘we fall into the trap’. ” Our part of God’s plan is to proclaim, to warn against this.
But, as the Gospel shows us, we won’t be welcomed by those we encounter. As Christ was met by the Samaritans in their village so will we be met by most in society. Our message, God’s plan, isn’t a welcomed plan because it involves freedom, true freedom – freedom of humble service to God and each other – not of domination and power. This freedom involves our whole being: spirit, mind and body in the strenuous activity of constantly warding off the temptations of the earthly prince’s trap and struggling to embrace the true reality of the ‘new’ Jerusalem – it is work to be free; and most don’t want to work. This striving for true freedom isn’t an arbitrary demand from Christ – He himself has walked this path. In the opening lines of today’s Gospel we hear: ‘When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.’ – Christ, knowing what awaited Him, made the decision, freely, to follow His Father’s plan – to give of Himself in true love of others.
But as we have seen with this past Wednesday’s Supreme Court decisions, our society has other ideas of freedom. Society would rather withdraw into a delusion of freedom, where freedom means following unfettered desires, then come to grips with true freedom and choose to follow God. We have also seen that reaction to our ideas and God’s message can be met with distain, anger, even violence. The irrational and highly emotional mindset – where so-called ‘tolerance’ is a cover-word for indifference and disinterest in the welfare of each other – seems to have triumphed. We have seen first-hand what St. Paul warns about in the second reading and ‘flesh’ seems to have won out over spirit – but we know that this is a false victory for God’s plan is ultimately the only plan. And we choose to follow God’s Plan; not man’s.
As followers of Christ, modern-day disciples; each day we choose to walk with God, determined to offer humanity the words of eternal life, and challenge wrong ideas, policies and laws. We will stand up and fight ideologies and philosophies that reduce man to slaves of their desires by offering the freedom that choosing true love brings. We will stand up to the intrigues and wiles of the prince of this world. Though we will never enter into dialogue with the prince of this world – because he hates us – we will stand to announce God’s love through His eternal Word, by using His word in dialogue with each other. Pope Francis commented on this: “‘Think how the prince of the world tried to trick Jesus in the desert,’ tempting especially his vanity, ‘Jesus never answered this prince with his own words but with the word of God’; and so shall we.
But the big question for us is: how do we present ourselves? This too is answered in today’s readings, indeed by the whole of Scripture. When Jesus was given the cold shoulder in the Samaritan village and the disciples wanted to ‘call down fire from heaven to consume them’ – Jesus rebuked them. They seem to have forgotten what St. Paul proclaimed in the second reading ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
In spite of the reactions we receive; indeed, because of them, we choose through our freedom to Love our neighbor – regardless of how they treat us. As Christ determined resolutely; so we choose freely to embrace with love those who try to hate us. We follow Christ along His path not only to Jerusalem, but up on to the Cross to witness to our choice of Love.
All the time, through all the challenges and attacks we will choose to love everyone – we choose freedom – we choose God!