Enough for all
June 21st, 2016
By Sister Maria Catherine, OP
Once someone asked me about evangelization and I will rephrase the question here: As Christians, doesn’t Jesus call us to cultivate relationships with those who are hostile to the faith so that we might bring them closer to Christ? In some cases, wouldn’t it be a stronger choice to focus on those who are “unwelcoming” rather than those who will receive the Gospel more easily? Each situation calls for its own discernment. There will be times when God calls us to persevere at the side of the hardhearted. But I think there is an unexpected answer to my friend’s question, here: As Christ is in via, he does not stop for those who will not hear the message. Christ never says, “Let us arise and go to the Pharisees, and preach to them.” Christ doesn’t tarry for the unwilling, although mysteriously he continues to call each person.
Like the king that he is, Christ processes with his entourage toward Jerusalem with deliberate steps, sending messengers ahead of him. Similarly, Christ’s language and travels indicate that he casts the net wide: The invitation is open to all, but he lingers only with those who are willing to be taught. Jesus’ lack of reception by the Samaritan town is a providential sign that Christ will be rejected by the whole world. Even his followers misunderstand him: “Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus had indeed invested his Apostles with this power, but they were still undiscerning of their master’s purpose. It is not time for judgement. Christ’s invitation is freely given and has to be freely accepted, but he does not vacillate about his next move. He presses on, as planned.
Jesus’ reactions, too, are extremely straightforward in these encounters. Although Luke does not note who the speaker is, Matthew’s Gospel tells us that in the later part of this passage it is a Temple scribe who emphatically states “I will follow you wherever you go.” In his meditations on the Gospel of Matthew, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis writes, “to follow the Son of Man ‘wherever’ means to follow him into nowhere-that is, into the realm of non-comfort, non-security, non-certainty...The Son of Man promises himself to the scribe-nothing else. Generosity answers generosity...the living word gives himself in all his burning immediacy.” To another, Jesus responds like Elijah did to Elisha “Let the dead bury the dead…” Duties discharged to family presumably take precedence, even in the law, but Jesus rejects this and sets himself above these obligations. “No one who sets a hand to the plow…” Jesus’ responses seem cutthroat and unrelenting.
Our culture, our world, desperately needs the directness that Christ models for us. Who knows how much time any of us have for conversion and repentance. Has your response been like these three? The first wants comfort, if not in reputation, at least physically; the next puts the world’s obligations first before the demands of Jesus’ personal invitation; the last wants his family’s approval. Although simply stated, Jesus is firm about the kind of claim he possesses on each soul. His words that strike to the heart are meant not for fear, but for renewal. Is this directness what you offer to others in your personal witness? Jesus says, I can only give you myself - free gift for free gift; leave everything to follow me; and be decisive - I will be enough for you.
Sister Maria is a perpetually professed member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
From June 23, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.