In today’s Gospel a scribe approaches Jesus. Often, when a scribe is mentioned in the Gospels, one can expect a conflict. This time though, it appears that this scribe has not come to challenge Jesus, but has a sincere interest in following him, of becoming one of his disciples because he said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go” (Mt 8:19). Just as Jesus responded to the rich man who sought what he must do to enter the kingdom of God, so Jesus challenged the scribe, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Mt 8:20).
The life of the scribe was generally very sedentary and stable. They, more than likely, would have sought urban areas where they could have access to more opportunities to practice their writing craft such as the recording of the collection of taxes, the recording of royal decisions and decrees, secretarial roles in government, as well as be legal scholars of the Torah. Some scribes could rise to high levels influencing kings or sitting on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council in Jerusalem. The life of Jesus was that of an itinerant preacher. For the remainder of his ministry he would not be staying in one place for long. If the scribe truly wanted to follow Jesus he would need to give up his present lifestyle and be willing to go on the road with Jesus.
There is no response from the scribe to Jesus’ invitation. This is well and good because it gives us the opportunity to answer the question for ourselves. How would we respond? Where do we place our security? Do we place our security in our job, in our home, our family, our trade, vocation, or career choice? Those pursuing college degrees, are you being led by Jesus or the pursuit of power, pleasure, wealth, and/or honor?
When we truly place our hope and security in Jesus instead of that which is finite and limited, we will be less attached to the things of this world, we can live more simply and be freer to reach out beyond ourselves to give and provide aid, comfort, and support to those who are in need. Our lives will be more balanced and fulfilling when we let go of our white-knuckled grip of those material realities that we cling to for security and safety.
As was true with the disciples, our minds, hearts, and spirits need to first be open to the invitation of Jesus to follow him. Then as we follow his guidance we need to recognize that our transformation takes time. We are to persevere in prayer, draw strength from the love of the Holy Spirit and each other as trials, experiences, sufferings, and growing pains arise. Jesus has a unique vocational call for each of us. To close today, let us pray the hymn written by the Benedictine Nuns of Stanbrook Abbey:
O God of truth, prepare our minds
to hear and heed your holy word.
Fill every heart that longs for you
with your mysterious presence, Lord.
Almighty Father, with your Son
and blessed Spirit, hear our prayer.
Teach us to love eternal truth
and seek its freedom everywhere.
Photo of my mother and me after Mass at St Philip, the parish where I received my First Communion taken during my visit to CT a few years ago.