The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Six weeks ago, 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, I wrote on our Sunday reflection on Lk 9:51-62: “Jesus resolutely determined took the road to Jerusalem.” Using the poem by John Passaro, “Life is like a train ride,” I imagined Jesus on the train bound for Jerusalem. In a few weeks we will read of Jesus arriving in Jerusalem, “When Jesus had come in sight of the city, he wept over it, and said, “If only today you knew the way of peace! But now, your eyes are held from seeing” (Lk 19:41). The train will carry on, but Jesus has arrived at his destination, at the Mount of Olives, in the Holy City and finally in Golgotha.
Our Gospel of today is not even halfway to the arrival at Jerusalem in Luke 19. At this early stage of the journey, we are given insight into the mind of the Master and his disciples. In the very first verse of our gospel reading, Jesus said to his disciples “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you the kingdom”. This is the first advice Jesus gave his apostles. Is Jesus including himself? I will rephrase it this way, “We should not be afraid any longer, our little flock, for the Father has given us the kingdom.” In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me, Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mk 14:36). Was Jesus fearful of the Cross? Jesus was about to undergo the most difficult struggle of his life: the crucifixion. Not only was Christ facing one of the most painful and disgraceful punishments- he was dreading of being forsaken by the Father. I sense the very powerful force of fear.
Jesus encourages the apostles and disciples, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” pointing to a very common theme in the First Testament (Old Testament). Deuteronomy 31:8 teaches, “He will never leave you alone nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Often on our journeys, in our lives, we are fear all kinds of challenges. We are invited to hear the word of God, “Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come and follow me and I will give you rest.”
The second word of advice of Jesus to his apostles is that they must be prepared and vigilant, “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their mater’s return from a wedding” (Lk 12:35). The literal translation would be, that is, tuck up your long robe into your belt so that you are freer of your movement. In Exodus 12:11 we hear the same message at the time of the Passover as the Israelites prepared for leaving Egypt: Be ready and be prepared. Today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom reflects on that first Passover night in Egypt, when the Israelites “put on their faith” so as not to be afraid. Similarly, Ps 33 speaks of our refuge in God. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you. For what is the greatest joy and treasure we could possibly possess? This week we learn that Jesus is saying to us: Have no fear, and be prepared, for those who seek God and his kingdom will not be disappointed.