Setting our Faces on Calvary with Jesus, 26th Tuesday (I), October 3, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Mother Theodore Guerin
October 3, 2017
Zec 8:20-23, Ps 87, Lk 9:51-56


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily please click here: 


The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • Today we come to the fulcrum of the Gospel of St. Luke, when he tells us that Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” Literally in the Greek it means that he fixed his face on Jerusalem and began the journey up to the place where he would offer his life on the Cross for us all and complete his salvific mission. It would be there that Jesus would ultimately fulfill the prophecies announced by Zechariah after the exile. It would be to Jesus, the true temple destroyed and rebuilt in three days, to Jesus on the Cross, that people from different cities would say, “Come, let us go to implore the favor of the Lord,” “I, too, will go to seek the Lord, and “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” It would there, on Calvary, that the refrain for the Responsorial Psalm today, “God is with us,” would take on new, salvific meaning.
  • But before he would do that, he was going to try to include the Samaritans in that saving mission. He had already been to Samaria before, where he met the woman at the well. The end of that scene had the Samaritans all exclaiming in Sychar around the well of Jacob, “We have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” But because Jesus was planning to head on to Jerusalem, with whom the Samaritans had been in a theological war for centuries, “they would not welcome him.” They put their disagreement with the Jews above their receiving their Savior. And when the Boangerges brothers — the Sons of Thunder, John and James — sought to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans as God had once destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, we see that they, too, had taken their eyes off of Jerusalem and Jesus’ salvific will. So Jesus, rather than rebuking the Samaritans (which he easily could have), rebuked James and John. The failure of both the Samaritans and the Boangerges teaches us a valuable lessons: many times we can put our own grievances, our own petty scores to settle, above God and the work of salvation he wants to accomplish. We can take our eyes off of Jesus and off of where Jesus has set his eyes. We can put conditions on God’s saving work, like the Samaritans tried: “We’ll allow you, the Savior of the World, to enter our village provided that you promise that you won’t go to Jerusalem!” Even though all of us recognize how silly it is when the Samaritans of yesteryear do it, we need to become more conscious of the way we likewise refuse welcoming Jesus. He tells us, for example, in St. Matthew’s Gospel that whenever we refuse to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, care to the sick, welcome to the stranger, clothing to the naked and visits to the imprisoned, we fail to welcome him in need (Mt 25:31-46). We also see it when we refuse the Cross, like St. Peter and the apostles initially did when they reprimanded Jesus after he said that he would be betrayed in Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the religious and civil leaders, be beaten, scourged and murdered. Still today many do not want to embrace Jesus’ determined vision about the way he wishes to be with us, united with us on the path of sacrificial love we call the way of the Cross. They seek Christ without the Cross, a Christianity without suffering, The Cross remains a scandal and a folly for many today, just as it was for many at the time of the apostles. What happened in Samaria in today’s Gospel is simply one more illustration of what St. John described in the prologue to his Gospel, that Jesus “came to his own and his own received him not.”
  • The positive moral of the story is to keep our eyes fixed on what Jesus wants, and not to become so distracted by others rejecting Jesus that we in fact do the same. It’s a similar lesson to what Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. When the workmen want to rip out all of the weeds, the Farmer tells them to be patient, to let them grow to harvest time when they’ll be separated, but instead to focus on the growth of the wheat. For us, we need to focus first not on others whose face is not on Jesus and on all he accomplished for us in Jerusalem, but on how resolutely our attention is fixed on the Lord, whether the compass of our heart is set on the holy target of Golgotha and whether we’re in fact journeying there with him.
  • Someone who kept her eyes fixed on Jesus all the way and followed him to Calvary and through Calvary to heaven is the American saint we celebrate today, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, who was baptized on this day back in 1798 in France. (She died on May 14 in 1856, but May 14 is the Feast of St. Matthias and so the Church celebrates the day of her baptism). As a young girl she distinguished herself by her love for God and those God had made her neighbor. When she made her first communion at the age of 10, she confided to the priest that she was being called to religious life, but after her father was murdered by bandits when she was 15, she cared for her mother for the next ten years. Her mother didn’t want her to leave her side and little Anne-Therese was patient and kind with her. Eventually, seeing her daughter’s devotion, Isabelle Guerin permitted her daughter to follow her vocation and draw near to others with the same mercy with which she had been caring for her. She entered the Sisters of Providence of Ruille-sur-Loir and taught in schools and visited the poor and the sick. Eventually, when she was 42, her community responded to the request of the Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, to send sisters to teach the children in the woods of Indiana. She was asked to be the superior, which was a request for her who had become a teaching sister to be a missionary. She prayed about it for a long time, before recognizing that she had committed herself to a Constitution that said, “”The Congregation being obliged to work with zeal for the sanctification of souls, the sisters will be disposed to go to whatsoever part of the world obedience calls them,” and that convinced her to answer the call to America. It was a real Cross for her, but she set her heart resolutely on the will of God and followed Christ to Calvary-in-Indiana. After a four month journey she arrived, founded the new Congregation (since they wouldn’t be able to communicate back with France) and began the work, bringing people the Gospel, an education, loving mercy in founding orphanages and even medicine in establishing various pharmacies. There are still 300 Sisters of her order in Indiana, who are pouring out the love of Christ on Calvary through their work.
  • Every day at Mass, we are able to say, in the words of Zechariah the Prophet, “Come! let us go to implore the favor of the LORD” and, “I too will go to seek the LORD.” This is where God is with us. This is where we behold the Lamb of God, the Savior of the World, who can’t keep his eyes off of us. Let us ask him as we prepare to receive his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, to give us his eyes, so that we might keep our eyes always on the target he has set and on the Father in heaven, where we hope, with St. Mother Theodore, to behold him always in the beatific vision!


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ZEC 8:20-23

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
There shall yet come peoples,
the inhabitants of many cities;
and the inhabitants of one city shall approach those of another,
and say, “Come! let us go to implore the favor of the LORD”;
and, “I too will go to seek the LORD.”
Many peoples and strong nations shall come
to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem
and to implore the favor of the LORD.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
In those days ten men of every nationality,
speaking different tongues, shall take hold,
yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say,
“Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 87:1B-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (Zec 8:23) God is with us.
His foundation upon the holy mountains
the LORD loves:
The gates of Zion,
more than any dwelling of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of you,
O city of God!
R. God is with us.
I tell of Egypt and Babylon
among those that know the LORD;
Of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia:
“This man was born there.”
And of Zion they shall say:
“One and all were born in her;
And he who has established her
is the Most High LORD.”
R. God is with us.
They shall note, when the peoples are enrolled:
“This man was born there.”
And all shall sing, in their festive dance:
“My home is within you.”
R. God is with us.

LK 9:51-56

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them,
and they journeyed to another village.