If you weren't paying attention when the Gospel was proclaimed yesterday, today's liturgy gave you another chance to hear Jesus' surprisingly harsh call: "Follow me and let the dead bury their dead."
This is our nice, sweet Jesus?
Jesus' call to discipleship was not widespread. At least in this account, Matthew says that Jesus saw "a crowd" and gave orders to cross the lake. He was getting away with his chosen followers. At least, those who would actually follow him.
His words are in response to a disciple's delay tactic: "Let me go first and bury my father." (Was his father even dead yet?) "No!" Jesus says, as elsewhere he said, no less harshly, "If anyone loves father or mother more than me, he is not worthy of me."
And yet this is good news. No, really. It means that Jesus is really enough. No other priority can outweigh him, not even things we automatically assume take precedence.
This is a good Gospel to recall if you're tempted to keep putting off something in the Lord's service for something "better" that just has to be done now. A few weeks ago I read a charming image of this from Adrienne von Speyr's book, Confession. No matter how many marbles a child has collected, if he should drop some, he would not shrug it off. Instead, the child hunts them down immediately. But the grown-up is so ready to say, "I can always pray later; I can always take care of that matter later...."
To follow Jesus is to be on the move. We can't, like Peter at the Transfiguration, offer to set up three tents. We have to be light on our feet (as Jesus was, with "no place to rest his head"). Detachment, freedom, following Jesus: they're all together in Jesus' insistent call: "Follow me and let the dead bury their dead."