Homily October 3rd – Fr. Nathaniel Dreyer – From the Pulpit

Tuesday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time – Lk 9:51-56

            Today’s Gospel reading is a fascinating one, particularly because Luke uses a word three times in the original that doesn’t appear at all in the translation. That word is face.[1] Translated more literally, Luke tells us that Christ had “resolutely set His face” to go to Jerusalem, and that He sent messengers to the Samaritans to prepare the way “before His face.” Yet, they refused, precisely because “His face was set towards Jerusalem.”

            What a blessing it would have been for the Samaritans to see Christ’s face as it passed through their village! To bless the people, the Lord had Moses give the priests the formula: “The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!” (Nm 6:25). This is because to see His face is to receive mercy and salvation, as Ps. 31 (17) says, “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your mercy.” And yet, the Samaritans refused, simply because Christ was headed to Jerusalem, where He would bring to fulfilment all the promises of God’s mercy; we could say that Calvary was the ultimate shining of Christ’s face upon humanity.

            There are many lessons we could take away from this Gospel, but two immediately come to mind. First, we must be resolute in our decision to follow Christ. We can’t live simply on the level of emotions or of good feelings. We must “set our faces” towards Jerusalem, towards following Jesus Christ. This path has different twists and turns for each of us; indeed, the word Luke uses for “destination” implies something that’s highly personal.[2] In spite of the difficulties, we must decide, once and for all, to follow Christ. Saint Cyril of Alexandria says that part of the reason why Christ sent His disciples to ask them to prepare for His coming was actually to prepare His disciples for the rejection they would experience in Jerusalem. In the same way, too, we must steel ourselves for the difficult moments that will come.

            Secondly, and related to this, we must preach Christ no matter what. The Gospel and the salvation it brings is a blessing, whether or not people agree with us. Given that Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies, it seems odd that Christ would even have wasted His time sending messengers and asking them to prepare for His coming. Yet, He did, in order to bring the Good News if they so desired to hear it. We can only propose and pray; Christ must make the seed bear fruit. Lest we forget, however, just as His disciples were blessed to look upon His face, we too have the great grace to be near to Christ, to have Him present with us in the Eucharist, and to have Him at hand to encourage us with His strength and grace.

            Today, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Apostles, let us ask for the grace to be faithful witnesses to Christ, and to set our faces to bravely endure whatever comes our way, knowing that Christ’s face is shining upon us. 

[1] καὶ αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν τοῦ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ, καὶ ἀπέστειλεν ἀγγέλους πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ . . . καὶ οὐκ ἐδέξαντο αὐτόν, ὅτι τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἦν πορευόμενον εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ

[2] Not exactly destination, since the Greek isn’t structured that way: since His face was going towards Jerusalem. The word going is πορευόμενον: “Strong’s Greek 4198 poreúomai (from poros, ‘passageway’) – properly, to transport, moving something from one destination (port) to another; (figuratively) to go or depart, emphasizing the personal meaning which is attached to reaching the particular destination.”



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