At first reading of this gospel we might think that Jesus was having a bad hair day. He sounds so gruff and crotchety. Luke tells us that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. There is an intensity in those words. A determined Jesus heads to the holy city where he knew he would fulfill the mission his Father gave him; bear witness to the truth of God’s love for all of us. The next ten chapters in Luke’s gospel tell us what happened on that journey as Jesus went about the spiritual formation of his disciples, preparing them for the crisis they would all face in Jerusalem.
Going back to the words, ‘Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem,’ we hear words of determination. He wasn’t going to let himself get caught in a hassle with the Samaritans, he wasn’t going to let himself be impressed with the enthusiastic young man who promised he would follow Jesus where ever he went nor did he have time for those who wanted to negotiate how and when they would follow him.
This gospel is all about commitment. Jesus was committed to his father’s will and he expected that same commitment from those who would work with him in proclaiming the kingdom of God. Commitment is not a popular word or concept these days. Keeping one’s word is more and more difficult. It’s easy come and easy go. I’ve heard it explained this way; we are a throw away society, nothing is meant to last, everything has its own built in obsolescence, there is always a new and improved product coming down the line. We trash things and then we end up trashing relationships. Things are disposable, people are disposable. A valid question is, can anybody say ‘forever.’
Jesus was committed to doing his father’s will and he demanded that same commitment from those who wanted to be his followers. He warned them it would not be easy, he told them it would mean taking up the cross every day, in some way or other.
Every year on Easter Sunday we are asked to renew our baptismal vows, our commitment to living a Christian life. We renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. We renew of faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We renew our faith in the church. Hopefully we mean what we say but we are realistic enough to know we will still struggle with our faults and failings. So often its one step forward and two steps back but, with the help of God’s grace, we still keep trying, we still keep on trucking.
Our fidelity is not totally to those baptismal vows but to our trust in Christ’s being our Savior. That’s what we hang on to, the truth that we are loved no matter what our faults and failings. But it’s not easy to not be discouraged with ourselves. How can we live with ourselves, who so constantly are not constant? To whom are we faithful? With St. Paul we moan that all the good we want to do, we do not and those things we would rather not do, well, we easily do them. Our baptismal promises center on Jesus’ being our personal and the universal Savior. We live with ourselves, because Jesus lives with us and for us. To paraphrase St. Paul, ‘gladly will I glorify in my infirmities, my weakness, my failures, that the strength of Christ may be in me, for when I am weak, then I am strong.’
Continuing the Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that strengthened by the Bread of Life we receive at this Mass we will try again to set our face toward Jerusalem, we will try again and again to be faithful to the vows we made on Easter Sunday.