Step #1: Lectio / Read
When Jesus saw a crowd around him,
he gave orders to cross to the other shore.
A scribe approached and said to him,
“Teacher, 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.”
Another of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But Jesus answered him, “Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead.”
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Jesus has just come down from the mountain where He gave the Sermon on the Mount, almost certainly His most famous series of teachings. Now, as He travels, incredible things are happening; crowds are following Him everywhere and seeing healings, miracles, and all sorts of incredible things. Then, in the midst of all of that, Jesus is approached by people who are talking to Him about what it means to be a follower, and Jesus has some difficult things for them to hear.
To the first, who says He is ready to follow Jesus, He responds that, while animals and birds have places to rest, He does not. In this gentle but stern rebuke of the man's desire to follow Jesus, we can learn a truth of discipleship: it's not going to be easy. Sometimes, if you're following Christ, you'll realize that everyone around you has nicer stuff than you do. Maybe, you'll even be tempted to look at their lives and doubt your own choice to follow Christ. What Jesus was doing here was preparing us for this; He is even saying that we might, at times, get jealous of foxes and birds because they have things Jesus doesn't have. This does not make Jesus not worth following - not by a long shot - but it does prepare us to know what it will take to truly be a follower.
Then, in the next conversation which seems much more harsh than the previous one, a man says that he wants to follow Jesus, but first He has to go and bury his father. Jesus responds by telling the man that his job is to follow Jesus, and that the dead can bury the dead. Unlike Jesus, we don't know the situation of the man who was saying that; we can guess, though from Jesus' response, that the man's father was probably not even sick yet. The question the man asked was not because he was grieving and needed to take care of that grief first, because Jesus would have allowed that. Rather, we can be fairly sure that the man was just hoping to have a little more time before truly becoming a follower of Jesus.
These man were ready in theory to follow Jesus, but following Him can never be a theory; as G.K. Chesterton once said, it needs to be a "love affair."
Overall, this Gospel passage today helps remind us of the depth, difficulty, and ultimately the beauty of following Jesus. It will be hard, and there will be things we have to leave behind, but in the end this Man, Jesus, the Savior of the World, is worth more than all of the pearls and riches in the world. In the end, the pleasures, fame, and success of this world are nothing compared to joy of a relationship of love with the One who created each of us. This is what it means to be a follower: choosing Him without regard for what we're giving up, not because it sounds nice in theory but because we know that falling in love with Christ is the greatest adventure in the world and is worth whatever we have to lose.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
"Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton
The actual followers in Jesus' day would have walked so closely to Him that they would have been covered in the dust He kicked up. If you describe how you are doing as a follower, are you covered in dust? Can you only see Him in the distance?
When you think of what it means to be a follower, what are the characteristics you think of?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
Jesus, I long to follow you.
I choose You over everything else.
Teach me to be a disciple.
For the Rest of Your Day...
As you go about your normal day - work, hanging out with friends, working out, whatever you do - take note of all of your moments and interactions. Do they reflect that you're a follower of Christ in reality? If not, how can you improve?
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Today's prayer was prepared by Jason Theobald.