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Set Our Faces to Jerusalem
Today’s readings can be found on the USCCB website.
Jesus marks the start of his journey to Jerusalem, a pivotal point in Luke’s Gospel. Three times the Greek text uses the term ‘set his face to’ (το πρόσωπον εστήρισεν) Jerusalem, translated as ‘resolutely determined’: he set his face to journey to Jerusalem, he sends messengers ‘ahead of his face’, and the Samaritans would not welcome him because his face was going to Jerusalem. Thrice in one small passage is enough usage to consider what this.
Jerusalem, he knows, is the place where prophets go to die (Lk 13:33-34); he anticipates the same fate for himself. The background is from Isaiah and Ezekiel; we hear in the third servant song: “I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame” (Is 50:7). And in Ezekiel: “Son of man, turn your face toward Jerusalem: preach against its sanctuary, prophesy against the land of Israel” (21:7). Together these indicate that he expects his commitment to his mission will end in suffering and death but he plans to proclaim the judgment to Israel in the place she encounters Truth: the Temple, the sanctuary.
The Sons of Thunder are offended that this town in Samaria rejects Jesus and want to call down vengeance on it. Jesus rebukes them which serves to highlight that even after their time with Jesus, they still do not understand his mission. This is one of the reasons the journey to Jerusalem is so long - the disciples need much more formation before Jesus can leave them.
I can relate to the poor disciples. Even with the gift of the Holy Spirit (which they did not yet have), I often misunderstand the way I should respond in situations or, because of my own zeal, passionately stomp on toes to make sure my message is proclaimed.
Many times, the rebukes I experience come from an interior light being turned on, no doubt guided by the Spirit, and frequently come with a great sense of guilt or regret. I am thankful for the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation and Jesus’ compassionate response to my misunderstandings. Like the disciples here, I need a long journey of formation still to learn how to set my face to Jerusalem, as Jesus does. I’m grateful to have his Church, his disciples, who support me and form me in his mission.
Years ago, my coworker, who was the Director of Worship, resolutely made the hymn, Jerusalem, My Destiny the opening song for the whole of Lent, each week including the next verse. Through his prayer he had discerned, as he shared with me, that our parish ‘needed this song more than they knew.’ On our journey, we need Jerusalem viewed through Jesus’ eyes. We too need to set our faces to Jerusalem with humble hearts, realising that our destiny is bound with Jesus’ mission, with his suffering, his death, and ultimately, with the fullness of joy in his resurrection.