I recently wrote about Luke 9:51-62. It happened to be on the day I attended three Masses in one day as an experiment. This was a hard gospel for me to comprehend; it was spiritually jarring. However, I found it fascinating the way each priest interpreted this gospel. I thought it would be a learning exercise for myself to summarize homilies from twelve different priests across the United States and how they addressed Jesus’ direct word.
In this gospel Jesus is very direct about following Him with a laser focus. All other concerns are superfluous and secondary. I will start with the three priests' homilies where I attended Mass. Then I will summarize nine other priests' homilies.
It is intriguing to see how God’s word is interpreted from CA to NY to MI to TX to MT to AK and more!! Some use stories (which I love), others use questions to make us think, others “evade” the harsh words and instead focus on other story points brought up in the Gospel. But all the priests talk about Jesus as our first priority. Enjoy.
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Father took the elephant in the room by the ears saying straight out that the gospel can sound a bit confusing. But his point is “What is Jesus doing in your life?” Jesus is giving his apostles a taste of their mission after He leaves. Their lives will be radically different. Jesus chooses us to follow Him and discipleship means living in ways we wouldn’t have expected. As Christians we are nomads but we have to look at what He is doing in our lives. What is Jesus doing in your life?
Priest 2 – St. Malachy’s Church Sterling Heights, MI
Father choose to focus on the plowing. When plowing you must look straight ahead and you must never look back so you do not veer. The devil wants us to keep looking back, but keep looking forward because forward is the only path to God.
Priest 3 – St. Clement of Rome Romeo, MI
Father made that point that Jesus wants us to focus on the mission now. He went on to tell the story of Eric Liddell and Olympic runner who would not run on Sunday because of his devotion to his faith. This paid off for him; the movie Chariots of Fire was made about him. You have to dedicate your time to Christ, reflect on this and keep moving forward; don’t look back.
Priest 4 – Father Mike (bulldogcatholic.org) University of MN Duluth, MN
Father Mike is a priest at a college and I love listening to him because you can hear his excitement; it is contagious. He is very active on social media. He picked a different tack when addressing the gospel.
We’ve been made free. Our idea of freedom is the license to do what you want. But freedom is much deeper than that. It is the ability to do what you ought to do. It is virtue. Virtue is the habitual disposition to do good. To be free is to be able to take action at the very moment you are called. To be free is to be able to take joy in doing the right thing, even if that joy is letting God love you in your brokenness.
Priest 5 – Bishop Robert Barron Los Angeles, CA
Bishop Robert Barron is extremely active on social media and provides insightful ideas and commentary regarding the gospels. He has a great tone.
Jesus is the center; he is the everything. Watch it when someone or something else wants to take His position. Jesus is clarifying for his disciplines in this gospel. They are walking to Jerusalem though Samaria (this is important). They are refused hospitality. A man approaches Jesus and states that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes. Jesus replies we have to be able to follow him wherever we go. We all want a place to lay our heads. But this is not what Christ says. We have to go because He comes first. Another man comes and says he will follow Jesus after he buries his father. Jesus answers let the dead bury the dead. Talk about a slap in the face.
Here is the point: Jesus will insist that our relationship to Him is first even over the most sacred of obligations. Are we willing to truly and completely walk with Him? That is the question.
Priest 6 – Father Larry Richards Erie, PA
Father Larry has started a foundation called The Reason for Our Hope Foundation. He is very animated and engaging and full of humor and humility!
Father started talking and gave several stories about several priests who went against the Holy Father (Pope Francis) vehemently. He read from Galatians in today’s readings. It says how we can consume each other. Father is a strong supporter of the Pope. Father admits he has said stupid things. We all have. The devil constantly accuses us. We cannot divide amongst ourselves. No one is perfect. Our job is to bring unity in the flock. We should be praying for the Holy Father every day. We need to come together.
Priest 6 – Father Jim Rolph St. John the Evangelist Fenton, MI
Today Jesus makes the free choice to fulfill God’s will so that we have life and freedom. All of us are called to follow Jesus but there are many things holding us back. The first item we hear is about relationships. Our relationships can hold us back. The second thing that we see is attachment to possessions. Jesus literally has nothing so nothing can come between Him and His Father’s will. The third thing is choosing between goods. Have I asked Jesus want He wants for me?
What is holding me back from following Jesus? Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Priest 7 – Rev. Msgr. Donald Enzweiler Church of St. Agnes Fort Wright, KY
In today’s world we are dazzled by the spectacular and then it fades away. It would seem the Christian way of life has become ordinary, even insignificant. But today’s gospel reminds us that following Jesus Christ can be radical, He disturbs the status quo. Discipleship takes focused work, unconditional self-giving, prayer, meditation, and sensitivity. “Let’s get radical!”
Priest 8 – Father Joseph McGilloway Holy Cross Parish Anchorage, AL
Father tells a moving story about how he had to provide a homily of the “Good News” to his family using THIS gospel IN THE HOSPITAL where his father was dying. This happened in 2007 (the Gospels are on a three-year cycle). His father died later that day. (WOW). Father did something priests are not allowed to do – he changed the Gospel.
Shortly thereafter, he found out that in the Gospel where the man who asked Jesus to let him bury his father first was not truthful. That man’s father was not dying. The man was using the father as an excuse. Jesus would not be that harsh with us.
Finally, this was Father's last homily at this church. So very appropriate in line with the Gospel’s message of following Jesus can be a nomadic living.
Priest 9 – Fr. Jon Seda St. Thomas Aquinas Church Ames, IA
Father started with a story of current seminarians and how they should speak to retired priests to see that a lifetime commitment can be joyful. Making and keeping a lifetime commitment is difficult in a culture where the dominant notion of freedom is: Hey, things may change. Keep your options open. Someone or something better may come along, and usually does.
Jesus is not looking for lukewarm followers and that is what we see in the Gospel today. Our commitment to Jesus should be steadfast and the plow analogy is something we Iowans should understand. We need to make a definite commitment.
Priest 10 – Father Ken Saint Charles Borromeo Whitefish, MT
We need to be challenged yet we hate to be challenged. How dare you judge me! Two men come to Jesus today and Jesus tells them they must follow Him now. Following Jesus takes a firm commitment and must be our first priority.
Priest 11 – Reverend Robert Kus Basilica Shrine of Saint Mary Wilmington, NC
Father told the great story of Henriette Delille, a Creole woman who lived from 1813 to 1862 in Louisiana. Please read the story of this amazing woman in the link. She created a new Order called the Sisters of the Presentation which created the first home for the elderly in the United States. Pope Benedict XVI named her a Venerable of the Church in 2010.
From St. Luke and Henriette’s life we can glean three things:
- We are called to do something with our lives. A life of purpose.
- We are called to give our whole selves to our vocation. Focus and do not get caught up in the past.
- God calls us to different vocations at different times in our lives.
Priest 12 – Father John Bell Our Lady of Angels Allen TX
Cell phone drivers drive me nuts, Father started. People are texting and not focusing on driving. That is today’s Gospel. Jesus’ response about not having a place to rest your head is really about if you are looking for this to be a stable lifestyle, this might not be for you. The other two responses while noble requests are distractions from putting Christ first. Father finally talks about the first row when plowing. The first row sets the tone for being straight. Then the rest will follow with it. You must be focused.
Discipleship of Christ is a full-time job with no short cuts or excuses. Jesus' point is well made to the apostles and to us.
Copyright 2016 Peter Serzo
About the Author
Peter Serzo, observer, listener, author, speaker, and blogger. He shares his experiences at different Catholic churches at Dotirome.com and on his popular Priest Podcast, with enlightening conversation with those that lead (not a theology conversation but a conversation on being a priest/leader/human). Peter travels, visiting different Catholic churches satiating his curiosity and desire to spread each parish's uniqueness though his blog and presentations.