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Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

From the Youtube post:

This week, Dr. Brant Pitre discusses the Sunday Mass readings for the thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the Gospel reading — from Luke 9 — we find some of Jesus’ most striking an demanding comments as he passes through a Samaritan village. As multiple people approach Jesus, whose face is now “set toward Jerusalem” so that he may accomplish the New Passover and redemption of the world, they tell Jesus that they wish to follow him. Jesus, however, tells the first person that he is effectively a nomad and has no possessions, wandering throughout Israel. So, if he wishes to follow Jesus, he must be prepared to do the same.

To the second person, who asked to follow Jesus but wanted to first bury his father, Jesus says to the man to let “the dead…bury their own dead,” for he who is not fit to put Jesus first, even before mother and father, is not worthy to follow him. And, again, a third person makes a similar request but only after first saying farewell to those at his home. And, Jesus, again, says that those who are not willing to leave all behind and not look back are not fit for the kingdom of God.

Ultimately, Jesus’ demand of us is nothing less than everything. Anything that we remain attached to that would keep us from pursuing Jesus at all costs must be purged if we are to be a true disciple and follower of him.

It is no coincidence that these responses of Jesus is happening right after Luke tells us Jesus is setting his sights on Jerusalem where the ultimate demand of him would be made. As such, Jesus, too, expects of his followers to be willing to lay aside all attachments — even good ones — if it comes to it, for the sake of being his disciple.

In the Old Testament reading in 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah approach Elisha to ask him to be his prophetic successor, and Elisha first asks if he can first go tell his parents goodbye and Elijah permits him to do so. The connection the Church is calling to mind for us by having us read this Old Testament narrative with the Gospel reading is that the call of discipleship to Jesus is even greater than Elijah’s call of discipleship to Elisha. Jesus’ demands are more radical because Jesus and the kingdom he is proclaiming is greater than Elijah and the Old Testament kingdom proclaimed by him.