'I will follow you wherever you go.' Sunday Reflections, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio)
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel Luke 9:51-62 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)
When the days drew near for him to be received up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." But he said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Columban Fr Rufus Halley (1944 - 28 August 2001) with friends in Mindanao
Jesus speaks clearly to us in Sunday's gospel about the cost of following him. Christians are still prepared to give up their very lives to follow Jesus. One example is Fr Franҫois Mourad, a Catholic priest, murdered in Syria last Sunday, as Vatican Radio reports.
One who paid the same price, on 28 August 2001 in the Philippines, was a very close friend and Columban confrere, Fr Rufus Halley, from County Waterford in Ireland. He entered the Columbans one year after me. Father Rufus came from a relatively wealthy family but lived very simply and chose to spend the last twenty years of his life in a predominantly Muslim area in Mindanao, an area where for centuries there has been distrust, and sometimes open hostility, between Christians and Muslims.
Many of us tend to react as James and John did in a 'them and us' situation. Not Father Rufus. He chose the path of dialogue, learning two new Philippine languages in order to do that - he was fluent in Tagalog, the language spoken in central Luzon where he had worked for many years - Maranao, the language of most of the Muslims in Lanao del Sur where he was based, and Cebuano, the language of most of the Christian minority there.
He was ambushed and shot dead while riding back to his parish in Malabang from the neighbouring parish of Balabagan. He had been at a meeting of Christian and Muslim leaders. Though the killers happened to be Muslims, both Christians and Muslims mourned him.
Here is an article written by a great friend of Father Rufus, who was known to many as 'Father Popong', Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, published in Misyon in August-September 2006. I've made some minor changes in the text.