“I will follow you. Come after me”
(Read Luke 9:57-62)
If I do not know Jesus, even if I love Him, I can do the opposite of Him. If then I know Him, I realize that I do not really love Him but I love my desires about Him. To have discernment, something quite rare even within the Church, I must know in order to love and then love in order to know and love always more. God, infinitely knowable and lovable, is always unforeseeable and even more lovable.
If our intelligence is deceived and has a false image of Him, even our will is enslaved by acquired mechanisms. When I want to do what I think is good, I am not able to (Cf. Rom 7:14-25). This is why evil is trivial: it comes out easily and without difficulty; whereas, goodness is often clumsy and fraught by difficulties. Jesus frees my intelligence from lies and my will from slavery: His words are Spirit and they are life (John 6:63). Because of this, notwithstanding my resistances, like Jesus in the garden, I must ask: “Father, let Your will, not mine, be done!” (Luke 22:42).
In the three scenes of this Gospel passage, our intelligence knows the purpose that is thrice repeated: i.e. to follow Jesus. The will, however, is enslaved by bad habits (= vices) that are fruits of ignorance. Here, its three instances of resistance to the truth are unmasked. Once chosen the right purpose, the will may automatically use the wrong means: to possess things, people, even God.
In the first scene, Jesus tells those who want to follow Him: “Foxes have their dens, birds of the sky have their nests.” Cunning people like Herod, the fox, have their dens: their securities are well placed in their vaults. The unprepared, like birds of the sky, make of God the nest of their securities. Dens and nests are motherly images. The mother represents the world of “need and pleasure.” She warrants material life. For adults, the mother is substituted by mother earth with its goods. But in order to be born, one must come out, not remain or go back into the mother.
Those who make their life consist in the search for wealth and pleasures never even start living. Enslaved by things, they are not yet born. Greed is idolatry (Ef 5:5; Col 3:5), love for money is the root of every evil (1Tim 6:10): it sacrifices both our life and that of the others to material things. Poverty is the mother of the adult person: it makes us children of the Father, similar to the Son of man who didn’t have where to rest His head. The first gift for our will is freedom from the slavery of things.
In the second scene, the one who follows Jesus asks first to bury his father. The father is the first free affection. If the mother represents the world of necessity and pleasure, the father represents “the freedom and duty” proper of inter-personal relationships. But what has priority over God becomes god. Every absoluteness is idolatry, affection for death not for life. If in order to be born we must come out of the mother, in order to grow, we must emancipate ourselves from the father. Otherwise, we remain castrated, waiting our whole life for him to die. Setting God as our first love is the great commandment. It is chastity that makes us capable of loving as we are loved. The second gift for our will is freedom from the mutual slavery between people.
In the third scene, to those who want to follow Him, Jesus tells not to look behind. Otherwise, they will change into salt like Lot’s wife. The motorcyclist who looks behind will crush. People look behind in order to understand who they are, because they want to be faithful to their individual stories. It is a trap: the past becomes the tomb of the future. We are what we become. And we become what we propose to. The future is not a messed-up re-edition of the past. “To obey God instead of the ego” gives us a new future like Abraham’s. We must listen to God, without expecting Him to listen to us. The third gift for our will is obedience to God, freedom from the slavery of the false “ego.” These are the three temptations that Jesus overcame in the desert. These are the three gifts that He grants to His disciples so that they may be like Him and may be sent by Him to continue His mission.
Reflect and Share
• How is my freedom from goods? What is better for me: to have more of them or less? In my relationship with people, do I bind them to me or am I capable of gratuity and freedom?
• Do I wish that God would do what I want or do I desire to do what God wants?