Some people can be so bullheaded. They choose to stay the course at any cost. These folks are not just simply stubborn. They are obstinate in a foolish or perhaps even in a stupid way. Children can be bullheaded about who can or who cannot play with them, based on who they like or not. An employer might be bullheaded about who can use a conference room and for how long. A student might be bullheaded about choosing to do homework sloppily. In this weekend’s Gospel, when we hear that Jesus was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,” we might be tempted to think He was really being bullheaded. After all, for Jesus, and all the prophets before Him, “Jerusalem” represents death, the end of life’s journey. Traveling to Jerusalem to meet suffering and death seems to be a stupid move. Peter, and presumably the other disciples, did not want Jesus to embark on this journey (see Matthew 16:21). They did not understand that Jerusalem represents more than the end of a journey ... more than death. Jerusalem symbolizes the new Life beyond death.
The journey Jesus invites us to take is the journey through death to new Life. We know the cost, even better than the disciples knew, even as we also know the new Life that awaits beyond. We need to get started on this journey and stay on an unswerving path. We must be single-minded, but not bullheaded. We must travel this journey with full understanding of that tow which we commit ourselves. We also take this journey with full understanding of what is “beyond” Jerusalem.
Following Jesus requires much more than simply walking with Him from village to village. Following Jesus calls for being “resolutely determined” to journey with Him all the way to Jerusalem – and beyond. Any excuses, no matter how seemingly legitimate, can keep us from letting go of where we are and embracing where we must go. To be on this journey requires total self-surrender to what Jerusalem hold as well as to “being taken up” into what is “beyond” Jerusalem: the new Jerusalem ... “the Kingdom of God” fulfilled.
The challenge of this weekend’s Gospel is for us to be as resolutely determined to accept the dying to self that is necessary to follow Jesus and cooperate with Him in establishing God’s reign as Jesus was resolutely determined to go to His own suffering and death. We can be neither naïve, stupid, nor self-excusing. To be “fit for the Kingdom of God” we must keep our eyes on Jesus and our destiny. We must let Him be our motivation to stay the course. The course ... Jerusalem. The price ... dying. The stakes ... new Life.
The context for this weekend’s Gospel is that Jesus is “resolutely determined” to go to Jerusalem and this sets the tone for the next months of Ordinary Time for us. On our journey to the end of the liturgical year in November (probably far from our minds at this point in late June!) we, too, must be resolute about hearing the Gospel faithfully and following Jesus, even when that means we, too, are going to “Jerusalem,” which symbolizes the ongoing dying to self that is what living the Paschal Mystery really is.
We hear the Gospel faithfully when that Gospel is lived in our everyday circumstances. Hearing is more than the words going into our ears or through our eyes by reading them off the page. It demands of us resolute action. The Gospels are often challenging. This one challenges us to go to Jerusalem with Jesus and to be His faithful followers by proclaiming that “the Kingdom of God” is at hand.
May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!