Friday Week 24 Year I

Following Jesus sounds almost straightforward in Luke’s gospel today. He makes his way around the place, doing his stuff, speaking Good News. And we follow. Physically follow after him. In his steps. Not too much to it.
The author of the letter to Timothy paints an altogether messier portrait of what it means to follow Jesus along with issues of church order and orthodoxy, of hypocrisy and dissent, and of the complex lure and corruption of money and power. How do we follow Jesus through that muddled minefield?
Luke makes it look easy. But then Luke likes to pretend to photographic and flawless simplicity—remember his picture of the first Christian community in Acts. His Jesus is a pretty ordinary guy only marked out by the extraordinary mission given him by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit could easily come calling on you or me too.
Mark’s Jesus is an unpredictable enigma, Matthew’s wears with gravity the mantle of Moses, and John’s Jesus floats an inch of the ground in a constant vision of heavenly mysteries. But Luke sees him like you or me—just a touch more compassionate, eloquent and attractive.
Luke’s Jesus though has a hidden edge. Underneath his calm and ordinary charm he’s turning church and state upside down. Here today we see the male enclave of discipleship—which the other evangelists take for granted—punctured and pierced by a band of women. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others who not only followed behind but provided for them all out of their own resources. Resourceful women—there’s a challenge!
Doesn’t the vagrant company of Jesus take on a different, more human, more festive feel when we imagine it in a more assorted glory than TV ever showed it?
Luke’s Jesus is no more a realistic snapshot of its subject than any other—he has his tale to tell, his point to make. A good point for us to hear—about who can be in and who out, who’s up and who’s down.
But beyond all the points to be made I hope there’s a freedom to be found in this array of angles. Everyone who comes to know Jesus comes from a different place and discovers a different person looking out of history and prayer right back at them.
In which case the key question is what story are we telling day to day in our lives about Jesus? Who is he to us? How does he move our hearts? And above all, how has he been a word of good news to our hungry ears?

4 replies on “Friday Week 24 Year I”

  1. Fran, Crystal… Although I do have a temperamental antipathy to the pastoral epistles I recognise the practical need for the rules and norms any community lives by. How you negotiate through the minefield without it blowing off your feet demands real care and consideration in every age.
    Catholic scripture scholar Raymond Brown has a wonderful little book, ‘The Churches the Apostles Left Behind’ that looks at the many different ways the early Christian communities coped with the task of carrying the following of Jesus into an age when the eye-witnesses were dying off. How do you keep the faith alive? Among others he discusses the approach of Luke and the pastoral epistles (and finds both lacking!).
    The silent context of the homily was a group of retreatants making the 30-day Spiritual Exercises and at a point where they are praying about the growing up of Jesus and his emergence into ministry. The grace that St. Ignatius asks them to pray for is to know Jesus better, and knowing him to love him more deeply, and loving him to follow him more closely.
    Ignatius was primarily writing for people already deeply embedded in Timothy’s world, entangled in those issues of order and money, and trying to find their way. Ignatius’ invitation is to (re)discover the companionship of Jesus and let that lead them. He was well aware of the complications this could lead to–if for no other reason having spent several stints in ecclesiastical prisons under suspicion of heresy–and the Exercises has a difficult section all about ‘thinking with the Church’.

  2. I guess it seems you can’t have one (following Jesus) without the other (religion). But maybe we are like those in the time of Ignatius – the elements of religion are common knowledge even if not practiced and those that just want to focus on Jesus have the liberty to do so, though it may seem irresponcible. Is that mysticism?

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