Journey with Jesus

08-18-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The Gospel and the other scriptures this weekend invite us to think about our journey in life with Jesus. We do not usually use this word ‘journey’ so that the word is less familiar to us; we tend to use the word ‘trip.’ Of course, the whole notion of a trip usually means the daily trip by car to work or school. We know, even before the latest State Study, that our roads are overly congested for too many hours each day and that our public transportation is too little and too poorly maintained. Who would want to take a trip with Jesus at the present moment in Metropolitan Boston? Not really too many of us in case he might hear some of our thoughts or words!!!

But to the matter of understanding this weekend’s scriptural passages:
The very young prophet Jeremiah lived in very difficult and hard times and yet he still proclaimed God’s messages. Although he was from an era when prophets were listened to, he still got into trouble because of his message. Jeremiah told them that for the Jews to hold out from the enemy attacking Jerusalem was useless and indeed God was going allow them to be taken by the vicious Babylonians. Indeed this is the worst of news, but what made it even worse was that Jeremiah told them that God had the power to hand them over to their enemy, the Babylonians. This message that God would hand them over was radically new and horrifying to the Jews of then. The big implication in the message was that the Babylonians were also servants of Yahweh, their God. So in anger they threw Jeremiah in a well to die. It took a non-Jew, a foreigner, to help Jeremiah out of the well and let him continue his mission for God. Know that Jerusalem did ultimately surrender, and the people suffered the indignity of the Babylonian exile. Jeremiah was also included and was exiled with his people. It was a long painful journey and trip to Babylon.

We can hear in the Gospel story that Jesus also wished that the message he preached would not cause division and dissension. We see this in today’s Gospel in his dramatic outburst. On his “journey or trip” to Jerusalem, the place of his agonizing death, Jesus cries out, “How great is my anguish!” This shriek is supported by his knowledge that his work is to bring the fire that purifies and clarifies. Jesus does not intend harm, much less death. We can hear and see how Jesus is in the line of prophets like Jeremiah. Some would say that Jeremiah is a prefigurement of Jesus. Jeremiah, who descended into a murky pit, is a vague symbol of Jesus who must go down—be plunged—into his death and thus rise to life.

Bear in mind that our passage from the Gospel this weekend is a part of a loosely connected collection of sayings, parables, and expressions attributed to Jesus as he began his three-year journey, or trip, to Jerusalem. Also bear in mind that Luke has chosen to place much of his Gospel in the setting of a journey or trip. Indeed it is a very critical trip for one and all.

Remember that the earliest believers were all converts who had to change their religion and for the most part change their lives. Certainly, for some of them, they hurt their families and friends and caused a great split in relationships. Jesus, on his trip to Jerusalem, did not directly cause disunity or division or dissension, but for people who started to follow him, this new commitment caused the divisions and dissension.

Back in the time of the Gospel, people met Jesus face to face; we, however, meet him at Mass and also in prayer, in the scriptures, and when we meet other people. Do we join with them in the journey or trip with Jesus, or do we by our example — and then invitation — ask them to join with us alongside of Jesus?