Today the Lord’s Gospel declares to us:
When the days for Jesus to be TAKEN UP were fulfilled,
he RESOLUTELY DETERMINED to journey to Jerusalem.
His being “TAKEN UP” can mean his Cross, his Resurrection, his Ascension, or all three.
The words, “he RESOLUTELY DETERMINED” to go to Jerusalem, appear in the original language of the Gospel as “he SET HIS FACE”— he SET
HIS FACE to go to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the territory that saw Christ GO UP on the Cross, GO UP into the Resurrection, and GO UP or ASCEND into heaven.
Even now, as the “Risen One seated at the right hand of the Father,” the Lord’s human body is still SET with the marks he received at Jerusalem.
The hands and feet of the Risen One are still SET in the declaration that he is also the Crucified One.
He is risen and glorified, but he HAS SET HIS FACE on remaining the WOUNDED One.
In his wounds— the marks of DEATH— we can recognize that, except for sin, he was and remains mysteriously like us even in our human suffering and death.
HE KNOWS US UNTO DEATH.
The MARKS OF HUMAN DEATH that he received at Jerusalem also say that Christ is GOD.
That is because God is LOVE; and Love in the ABSOLUTE is always SET on GIVING ITSELF UP and GIVING ITSLEF AWAY.
Christ is God, God is Love, and Love used it freedom to become and remain the man who gives up and gives away everything that he is as a man— right down to the giving up and giving away of his own human life at Jerusalem.
The wounds of God— who is Man in Christ Jesus Risen from the dead— the wounds of God are the badges of his love for us.
In his love and in his freedom he has set his face on showing his love for us.
Today in his Gospel, on his road to Jerusalem, mindful of everything he has freely determined to do there, Christ answers three volunteers who come to him.
The first volunteer hears that in following Christ in the kingdom of God he will have no place to call home.
The other two volunteers hear that to follow Christ in the service of the kingdom of God they must abandon without so much as a goodbye both the living and the dead among their loved ones.
The Lord has set his plan, and he will not bend it for those who would follow him.
He compares the work of the kingdom of God to plowing a field.
If a man is guiding a plow, but turns around to look back, his work will be crooked.
The plow will wander, not going where it’s supposed to go, nor doing what it’s supposed to do.
No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind
is fit for the kingdom of God.
Christ himself had set his hand to the plow, and set his face toward his goal: his work that lay ahead at Jerusalem.
His work, in Flesh and Blood, is to give glory to the Father and bring salvation to the world— love for the Father and love for the world.
He approaches us now in the Flesh and Blood of the Eucharist, still set on love for us and for the Father.
Here in his Flesh and Blood, he never turns to look back or look away.
He first gave us his Eucharist in Jerusalem.
So, as the Gospel tells us his face is set toward Jerusalem, we can understand that it is thereby set on his Eucharist in which he gives us a full share in his own immeasurable FITNESS for the kingdom of God.
As we approach him in his Flesh and Blood, our freely spoken “Amen” is honest and true only if we use our freedom to follow Christ on our own Jerusalem road— our freedom to serve the glory of the Father and the good of the world.
Our use of freedom safeguards and boosts itself by doing real good.
However, our use of freedom jeopardizes, lessens, and enslaves itself by turning in on itself and by doing evil.
The reading from St. Paul today tells us:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
Christ has set his face on achieving our everlasting freedom from the enslaving limits of sin and death.
Today is Sunday, the day on which Christ carried the human race in himself into the freedom of the Resurrection.
This week, we shall celebrate the freedom of our nation and the birthday of its independence.
Eight years ago, Pope John Paul II was in St. Louis, Missouri, where he preached a THANKFUL, a EUCHARISTIC freedom.
God has given us a moral law to guide us and protect us from falling back into the slavery of sin and falsehood.
We are not alone with our responsibility for the great gift of freedom.
The Ten Commandments are the charter of true freedom, for individuals as well as for society as a whole.
America first proclaimed its independence on the basis of self-evident moral truths.
America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world as long as it stands by those moral truths which are the very heart of its historical experience.
And so America:
if you want peace,
work for justice;
if you want justice,
if you want life,
embrace the truth—
the truth revealed by God.
In this way the praise of God, the language of Heaven, will be ever on this people’s lips:
“The Lord is God, the mighty....
Come then, let us bow down and worship.”