October 4, 2023
Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Luke 9:57–58
At first, this appears to be an unusual response from our Lord. This person appeared to be committing himself to follow Jesus wherever Jesus led. But rather than complimenting the would-be follower, Jesus indicates that there is nowhere for this man to follow Him. Instead, he would have to follow Him into the unknown. Why would Jesus say this? Did He not want the man to follow Him?
One thing that this passage teaches us is that Jesus was able to read the souls and the intentions of those whom He encountered. Apparently, what the man said was not exactly his true intention. In commenting upon this passage, several Church Fathers point out that the man said what he said not out of a deep desire to follow Christ, but so that he would look good in the eyes of those around Jesus. Jesus knew his true intention, and therefore told the man that if he wanted to follow Him, he would have to follow Him into the unknown. Jesus then spoke to two others about following Him, and each time He challenged them to follow Him without reservation.
The call to follow our Lord is absolute. We cannot halfheartedly follow Him. We cannot follow Him for selfish reasons. The choice to follow our Lord begins with Him calling to us interiorly. We must hear His clear voice and invitation. The invitation we will receive will be one that asks everything of us. Jesus will never call us to give half of our lives to Him, or even most of our lives to Him. His call is one that demands everything. By demanding everything from us, our Lord is actually giving everything to us. We are only made whole when we give everything to Him and follow Him without reserve. This is the starting point.
The choice to follow Jesus will also be done in a certain secrecy. It’s not that we try to hide our choice to follow Him; rather, we must follow Him with the right intentions. We do not do so because we want others to praise us, admire us, or look up to us. We do not do so to boost our spiritual ego. We follow Him because we have heard Him call and have chosen to respond to that call in the way we are called. Therefore, every choice to follow Jesus must begin in the secrecy of our interior life of prayer. Once our commitment is firmly established, it will often become visible to others, but that must never be a motivating factor.
Once we are firmly committed to follow Christ, there must be no turning back. Jesus concludes today’s Gospel by saying, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” The choice to follow Christ requires a death to certain things in our lives. As our journey moves forward, there will be temptations to return to our old ways. We will remember the delights of past sins, feel the draw to other paths, and might even experience the demand of absolute fidelity to be too much. These experiences must be continuously rejected as temptations and lies. We must never look back to what we gave up and must always look forward to that which our Lord is calling us. Second-guessing our choice to follow Jesus will be a very real temptation at times; therefore, our resolve must never waver.
Reflect, today, upon the depth of your own decision to follow Jesus. First, consider whether or not you have heard this radical and absolute call echo within the depths of your soul. Only there, in the secrecy of your interior life, will you hear God speak. Second, consider your motivations for following Jesus. Do you do so to look good in the eyes of others? Or do you do so out of love of God? Third, consider whether your commitment is total. It is not enough to give most of your life to Christ; He demands everything. Finally, ponder also the fact that there will be many temptations along the way to return to your former sinful way of life. Allow your resolve to eliminate those temptations and continuously recommit yourself to the journey to which you have been called.
My demanding Lord, You have called me to a radical commitment of my entire life to follow You. I hear Your voice and choose to say “yes” to Your invitation. Please free me from all selfish motives in life, and give me the resolve I need to follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.