When I was a freshman in high school one of my favorite songs was “I Will Follow Him” (Follow him wherever he may go. There isn’t an ocean too deep, a mountain so high it can keep, keep me away – away from my love…) A bit extreme – impossible even – but as a 14 year-old who was enamored of a boy in my class (who was “way out of my league”) it was expressive of what I thought was true. Today, it’s much less dramatic to “follow” people on Facebook or Twitter…but it probably could become obsessive as well.
In today’s gospel (MT 8:18-22) a scribe came to Jesus from the midst of a crowd and declared, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus, probably sensing first fervor and wanting the man to be clear about what he was declaring, responded in a rather surprising way. He said, “Foxes have dens and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” My impression is that Jesus probably encountered this kind of enthusiasm often in his public life. We are often drawn to charismatic speakers or people who exude love for others. It is normal to desire the companionship of such a person or to wish to be part of a community led by such a one. When this kind of encounter happens in our life we often want to grab onto it without thinking of the difference between an encounter and a life commitment. I believe that was the impetus for the response of Jesus to the man. It’s as if he is saying: “You’d better really think about what you’re asking. This is not an easy road and there are no guarantees about what will happen in the end.”
It is the maturity of faith that begins to see what such a life (or any life) is about and which causes us to say “yes” to what it is and what it might cost. And it is a commitment that demands a daily “yes” because life is all about change and growth and surprise and reversal. So I am able today to say that I choose to follow Jesus and I hope to say the same tomorrow. But that declaration is about 22 hours away…