Homily for Memorial of St. Irenaeus
When I first read this Gospel yesterday in preparing for this morning, I was kind of left scratching my head and thinking, “What is Jesus saying here?” I actually had to go to a Scripture commentary to understand this more and try to figure out what Jesus meant by some of these things.
First of all, I think the words of the Scribe are something that’s important for all of us to hear – “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” This statement can be a challenge for all of us to reflect on and it poses a question to us: are we willing to follow wherever Jesus goes? Are we willing to follow Him wherever He leads us? Now, there might be something to say about the Scribe not yet recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, but he was beginning to come to an awareness that there was something more significant about who Jesus is and what His purpose was.
But I think the fact that the Scribe didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah was the reason for the response that our Lord offered to the Scribe: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Had I been the Scribe in that moment, I probably would have stared at Jesus, blinked a couple of times and asked: “Come again?”
What Jesus means by this statement is that in order to truly follow Him, it requires a radical change in lifestyle. A Scribe who was used to living a life of comfort and leisure would be required to totally change that lifestyle to follow the Lord – and he probably wouldn’t have been able to.
That’s kind of the same message that Jesus gives to the man who says he has to bury his father. Jesus wasn’t saying that we’re not called to bury the dead – that’s one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. What this is telling us is that the man was delaying making a commitment to follow Christ. The man was finding an excuse to not give up everything to follow the Lord. And so, Jesus calls him out for it.
Some of our young people are here this morning for Mass – they are participating in our summer service camp today and tomorrow. To them (and to all of us), Jesus gives us this challenge today: are we totally committed to following Him or do we find excuses to put off following Him completely? What do we prioritize before Jesus? Nothing is as important as following Him. Nothing. But do we believe that for ourselves? We have to welcome Jesus into our lives; we have to give Him a place to rest on our hearts. Until we do that, we won’t be committed to Him. Let’s change that. Let’s give Jesus a place to rest in our hearts today.