Homilette for Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Matthew 8:18-22)

Normally the Christian tradition gives high priority to burying corpses. Entombment not only renders homage to the memory of a dead person but also regards as sacred the shell that enveloped the very breath of the Creator. We should be shocked then when Jesus demands that his disciple abandon his dying father to follow him.

Jesus’ radical order indicates the urgency of his mission. His disciples must learn as much as possible before he is given over to be crucified. Empowered by the grace of his cross, they will advance his project. But first the lessons of the Kingdom must be taught and faith in him must be secured. There is no time to look for a place to rest. He will teach his disciples on the road. There can be no delay to tie up loose ends at home, even to bury a parent. Others who do not yet see the kingdom on the horizon can attend to those matters.

We might compare what is happening in this gospel to triage – the method of selecting patients for medical treatment in time of calamity. Not everyone who is injured can be treated. The practitioners must decide who is beyond hope, who is to be given immediate help, and who might wait for assistance. The dying are forsaken, not out of negligence but out of necessity. The first treated are not the most severely wounded but the ones who with limited attention might assist in the care of the others. Then all the able-bodied treat those who are more severely wounded. Jesus, of course, is the divine physician overseeing the project. We are his disciple-assistants caring for one another as he directs us.