Turning Point in Jesus’ Life
TURNING POINT IN JESUS’ LIFE (1 KINGS 19:16b, 19-21)
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 30, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
All fiction stories have a turning point. all narratives, need a turning point. In the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” the young prodigal realizes that his hunger has driven him to feed pigs, and he thus decides that even the servants in his father’s house have enough to eat. Thus the prodigal turns toward home. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the great King Banquo is murdered while his son Fleance escapes, and thereafter the murdering Macbeth suffers one defeat after the next. The murder scene I the turning point.
In today’s gospel, Jesus “set(s) his face to go to Jerusalem.” This is
a turning point in Jesus’ life.
As with the leading figures from the Old Testament, with knowledge before-hand Jesus sets his face toward his passion and death in Jerusalem. However, Jesus’ journey will develop over a number of incidents, and with these happenings Our Lord will draw people into the kingdom of God.
In the first incident after this deliberate turn toward Jerusalem, Jesus sends messengers to a Samaritan village, so that they could arrange a place and a meal with the disciples.
Rejection follows! These messengers are told that they are not welcome because Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem for a religious purpose. The Samaritans honor God at their temple on Mount Gerizim; anyone having Mount Zion at Jerusalem as the Lord’s temple may not spend the night in Samaria. The ancestral antipathy between Judeans and Samaritans shows itself. No wonder, therefore, that brothers James and John, the “sons of thunder,” want to call on heaven to destroy that Samaritan village (Cf. reference to 2 Kings 1:9-12). This, however, is not the manner of Jesus who invites belief, but who does not compel belief. Jesus leaves His adherents free; He wins them to Himself without wrapping Himself in a cloak of fear. Jesus has turned His own face toward Jerusalem; He does not compel any other person.
Still, people will heed our Lord’s invitation, only not quite yet, not without some family goodbye festival. The kingdom of God, however, demands immediacy. A dedication to God—total and immediate—marks Jesus Christ and all His disciples. A family funeral, for example, could delay response to the kingdom’s call, bidding farewell to one’s household might slow one’s harkening to God’s beckoning. Our Lord denies such slowness. His example and His need demands that the disciple immediately cast aside the fishing net, or the allegiance, or even the reverence to family and friend. A godly imperative threads through Christ’s life. He has set His face toward Jerusalem and He invites
disciples to come with Him in the Kingdom of God.
Most cities frame their addresses from Main Street. When a pedestrian crosses that Main Street, he or she moves from streets denoted as South to streets denoted as North. A person sets his face in the new direction. Jesus sets His face, calling us to follow in godliness; only some people, however, elect to hear this invitation.
Yesterday the liturgy remembered Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Peter set his face when he recognized Jesus as the anointed one: “You are the Messiah of God” (Luke 9:20). Paul needed persuasion, so when Paul was riding to Damascus, Jesus knocked him from his horse and blinded Paul. Only then did Paul set his face to preach to the gentiles.
The blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, we prayed in yesterday’s Preface, bring us joy:
Peter, foremost in confessing the faith,
Paul, its outstanding preacher,
Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel,
Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that [God] calls.
Each in a different way
Gathered together the one family of Christ;
Revered together throughout the world,
They share one Martyr’s crown.
Often in the daily liturgies we recall men and women who set their faces in many lands and during centuries to recognize God. These people went to death witnessing to their faith. They died refusing to renounce or to compromise their witness. In the last book of scripture, in Revelation (2:13; 17:6), the martyrs shed their blood. From the early Church, martyrs received veneration, and this might include the celebration of the Eucharist at the martyr’s tomb.
Both in Nigeria and in Egypt, in these our days, Christians like you and me set their faces to live after the manner of Jesus. They witness to their faith, and they are killed for such living. If our liturgy recalls our founding fathers, Peter and Paul, we realize that martyrdom continues.
Our Lord set his face toward the Cross in Jerusalm. He thereby achieved our release from the domination of evil. Let us rejoice in our freedom and set our faces to a godly life after the manner of Jesus. Amen!!