FROM A READING FOR JULY 4, 14TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

'Rejoice with Jerusalem; be glad for her, all you that love this city!' Isaiah 66:10

Jerusalem has great importance for Luke. In chapter 9, the evangelist has Jesus and His disciples begin their journey to Jerusalem. From that point until Jesus' Palm Sunday entrance into the capital city, He and His followers are "on the road."

For Luke, Jerusalem is not just the place where Jesus suffers, dies and rises, but also the place He expects Christians to visit. We, as other Christs, must also suffer, die and rise in our lives.

Luke believes every follower of Jesus is constantly on the road to his or her Jerusalem. The city is much more a theological than a geographical place for the evangelist.

Ironically, the authors of our first and third readings (Isaiah 66:10-14; Luke 10:1-12) want their readers to go to Jerusalem: Luke, for the reasons above; Third-Isaiah, in order to rebuild the city the Babylonians had wiped out in 586 BCE.

Jerusalem is also in ruins when Luke writes around 85 CE. (The Roman army, in 70 CE, had replicated the Babylonian destruction.) But Luke seemingly could care less whether the city is rebuilt.

Security blanket
Third-Isaiah encourages Jews still in exile in Babylon to return to rebuild both the holy city and its temple. The prophet sees the restored city as a source of comfort and security for all Jews: "As a mother comforts her child, so I [Yahweh] will comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort."

I presume Luke also looks at his theological Jerusalem as a place of comfort and security, since it's only in our suffering and dying that we actually attain the life Jesus attained.

That seems to be why Jesus is so strict with the 72 Apostles He sends ahead of Him in the Gospel passage: "Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one along the way. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered you. Do not move about from one house to another."

In other words, "If you accidentally agree to stay in the house of the worst cook in town, don't switch when the best cook makes you an offer." Not even people's rejection of their message of peace should stop them from continuing their journey.

According to Luke, only determined, goal-oriented people will have their "names written in heaven."

A new creation
Without using the journey to Jerusalem metaphor, Paul conveys the same message (Galatians 6:14-18). "May I never boast," the Apostle writes, "except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Returning to the theme of Galatians, he continues, "Neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation." That's the new creation Paul referred to when he wrote about Jesus and His followers no longer being restricted to Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.

Paul mentions something all Christians share: the "marks of Jesus." He isn't speaking of the stigmata, but the marks of suffering - physical or psychological - which all followers of Jesus carry.

South African theologian Allan Boesak remarked, "Jesus will make only one request at the pearly gates: 'Show me your wounds!'" These wounds mark us as frequent visitors to Jerusalem.


(07/01/10)