Shorter Gospel readings may seem easy – a point or two, quickly understood. But they always intrigue me and prompt a question: Why did the Church choose just these five verses? What should I learn here?
Two men make different comments to Jesus, and we are always invited to “put ourselves in their shoes” and examine our own attitudes when we read about how others encounter Jesus. The first is a scribe, and it is helpful to understand that in the Jewish community at this time, a scribe was one who had studied the Scriptures so long and intensely that he had an intimate knowledge of God’s revelation. To be a scribe was like having a Ph. D. in revelation, with the right to gather disciples and teach them and to sit in the “Jewish tribunal” (the Sanhedrin). A scribe was part of the religious “elite,” to whom others would submit.
And yet this scribe, learned and well-established, must have listened to Jesus speak and teach, and decided to submit himself entirely to Jesus, saying to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Though Jesus has not studied the Torah in the kind of school that the scribe has and he has no comparable credentials, the scribe calls him “teacher.” Though Jesus has nothing and has not laid out a plan for traveling, teaching, or establishing a way of worship, the scribe says he will follow him “wherever” he goes. He has no expectations of glory. He cannot know where this unpredictable teacher and healer will go or what he will do, and yet he is willing to follow him, essentially forsaking his social class and his intellectual efforts.
Why? The scribe must have recognized, as others had, that Jesus “taught as one having authority and not like their scribes” (Mt 7:28-29). He must have seen that Jesus “interprets” the Scriptures in a new way – by his life and actions. He must have seen beyond the written Scriptures he understood so well to recognize Jesus as the living Word. He must have seen that it is better to follow this living and mysterious Truth than to remain “stuck” in his deeply learned process of studying to uncover some truth. Only if he saw Jesus as the embodiment of Truth would it make sense for him to step away from his current status and lifestyle and submit himself wholly to remaining with Jesus, wherever he goes, wherever he leads.
How about us? Are we “stuck” in ways of understanding that we are called to forsake in order to embrace the unknown Way of the Lord? Do we trust enough to abandon ourselves wholly to the living and true Word, “wherever” he leads?
Studying the Gospel is one way to prepare our hearts and minds for this trusting surrender, and I highly recommend a book of meditations on St. Matthew’s Gospel called Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, which opened up this Gospel for me!
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Deacon Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.