In today’s Gospel (Luke 9:57-62) Jesus speaks in an unfamiliar way, one that left me wondering what was going on. This gentle, forgiving Jesus tells us if we wish to follow him there is to be no concern for practical questions like where to lay your head or whether or not you should bury the dead, or grieve your losses. No hesitations. “Let the dead bury the dead.”
To understand this surprising approach, we need to look at the bigger picture. Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, his death is in sight and there are so many people who still need to hear his message. He must have been anxious to focus on what mattered most to him, even as it seemed the disciples just weren’t getting it.
Jesus is saying there are important things to do – so do them now. Don’t waste time on the small stuff – hemming around saying I need to take care of this or that, when I have more time I can focus on the big picture. I feel like Jesus is saying to me, “Get on with it, Nancy. Today is the day. Now is the proper hour.”
I am sure everyone has had this distorted sense of urgency – probably many times in life. I ask myself: “Is my sense of urgency about the really important stuff?” It is very easy for me to get bogged down in detail and as a result, I sometimes loose sight of what really matters or I just run out of energy because I am more urgent about getting details right and miss important things. I suspect I am not alone in this.
The visit of Pope Francis was for me a powerful reminder to stay focused on the message of Jesus. He reminded me of the Golden Rule – an idea so familiar to all of us that our Congress applauded before he finished saying it. Yet, Francis went back and said it in full and I truly needed to hear it. “Do until others as you would have others do unto you.”
We are called to genuinely love each other, care for each other, respect each other and care for our planet – this is the important stuff, the urgency of today. I heard him say to America: you are good, capable people with an incredible history, and you need to focus on the common good. Francis pleaded with us to be non-judgmental toward one another and to choose dialogue to resolve our differences. Don’t let yourselves get bogged down in detail, focus on the common good.
He reminded me that my every decision, word, and action impacts others. He reminded me to see the person, not the unfinished details, to recognize in another human face, the face of God. As a result of what I do, will that face wear a smile, shed tears of joy or will that face know fear, anger, pain or hurt? I heard Pope Francis invite me to dream, to hope, to work with renewed energy to live in the peaceable kingdom. Less focus on details and more on people.
Pope Francis places life-changing challenges before me and I hope my response will make a small change in the world. I think he is asking no less of us than to change the world.
So what are you urgent about?