“With my two hands on the plow, I don’t mind my journey now.
Keep your hands on the plow, hold on.”– The Gospel Plow, traditional American folksong
Along the way to Jerusalem, Jesus meets a man who promises to follow Him, after he first returns home to say goodbye to his family.
Jesus tells him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
If we want to follow Christ, we have to shift our priorities, even if it sounds harsh. Too often we get caught up in past mistakes, regrets that want to hold on to us and prevent us from moving forward. The mistakes of yesterday and the worries of the past can prevent us from living in the present.
Saint Paul spoke of dying daily, by this he meant that each day sees the resurrection of a new man, who makes each day the epitome of a life.
We live in a fallen world. When we declare ourselves to be citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, in a sense, we lose our citizenship in this world; we become aliens, refugees waiting to return home to heaven, or, as sacred Scripture often affirms, pilgrims.
This earth is no longer our home, and the closer we get to Christ, the more we realize it, the more we feel its sufferings and imperfections.
The Gospel Plow
Once we set our hands to the plow, we look forward, we do not look back.
Putting our hands to the plow also means accepting the hard work that lies before us. There will be times when we will feel like turning back, but if we do turn back, we may lose our place in the Kingdom – he loves us too much to force us to persevere.
Jesus wants us to know this. But he doesn’t tell us just by using words. He tells us with his own example as well.
As Jesus begins his last journey to Jerusalem, where he knows that betrayal, condemnation, torture, and a painful, humiliating death are waiting for him, St Luke tells us that Jesus was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”
The original Greek expression is even more poetic. It says that Jesus “steadfastly set his face” to go to Jerusalem. To set steadfastly, always involves making something firm and stable.
When we give our face a firm and stable expression, it is a sign that we have made a firm decision. We are not going to change our minds. We are going to persevere to the very end, no matter how hard it may get.
Jesus knew beforehand that his mission would be painful and difficult – more than we can imagine, in fact. But at the same time, Jesus accepted and fulfilled it willingly. Jesus did it out of love for us, and also to set an example for us.
To follow Christ’s path in life will be painful and difficult for us too, at times. And we, with God’s grace to strengthen us, are called to “steadfastly set our faces” to go on our journey to Jerusalem, to persevere in our friendship and fidelity with Christ no matter what.
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
© Lawrence Klimecki
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com