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Friends, today’s Gospel invites us to follow Jesus above all. The heart of the message is the claim that he is everything, the one for whom a totalizing decision has to be made.

I want to consider in detail how one man in our Gospel responded to the Lord’s call to discipleship. Jesus simply said, “Follow me,” and the man replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” Well, then as now, nothing would seem more reasonable! Of course, you have to take care of your own father’s funeral. What could be more important, especially in a family-centric culture like that of ancient Israel? 

Jesus answers with devastating laconicism: “Let the dead bury their dead.” We’re stunned by this deeply insensitive answer! This violates every sense of ethics and decorum that we have. Be honest: if you heard this from a religious teacher, wouldn’t you be tempted to leave him? 

Here’s the point: Jesus hasn’t one little thing against family obligations. But he will insist that our relationship to him is more important than even those most sacred of obligations. Even this most precious thing must fall away if we are to make him absolutely first.