Zechariah 8:20-23; Luke 9:51-56
Elijah Call Down Fire – by Bill Osborne
Both readings today speak of "resolution," a decision made with clarity and dedication to the outcome, whatever that outcome may be. Now, one has only to ponder a moment or two to realize how unfashionable resolutions are in our time. We joke about New Year's resolutions every year. We are suspicious of tough-minded, resolute leaders or politicians who don't seem to take into account other ways of seeing reality, don't seem to care about the interconnectedness of life, that "your" resolution might very well mean "my" being ignored or injured. We often suspect that firmness and determination and strictness might mean doing something or being bound, "tied," by something we really don't want.
A quick look at the word resolution is helpful, even if it risks coming off as pedantic! The word resolute comes from the Latin word resoltus, meaning relaxed; it's the past participle of resolvere, to relax or untie. How can our word resolution which connotes firmness and determination to a desired goal, no matter what the cost, come from a more ancient word meaning relaxed or untied?
The key is in looking at the motivation behind the resolutions in the two readings. In the reading from the Prophet Zechariah, we are given a vision that all people will be called to salvation, that is, freedom from the restriction (ties) that kill. It is a messianic vision, in which people from many cities look to God for their identity and inclusion as children of God. The clear implication is that when a people knows who they are, they are set free from false identities and expectations. But this is not just a freedom from false identity; it is freedom to take up true life with dedication and firmness, in short, to live one's identity with resolution.
In Luke's gospel passage, the point is even more clear as Jesus "firmly resolved to set his face [i.e., proceed] toward Jerusalem." Luke places this pivotal point of resolve, Jesus choosing to go to the city which kills the prophets, after Peter's profession of faith (Lk 9:18-21) and the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36). In the gospel, Jesus knows that going to Jerusalem will mean his being bound, beaten, and crucified.
What wonderful ironic transformation! Jesus' being tied to his resolution can free us from false identities. We can choose to live more relaxed because we don't have to fight for God's favor, God's attention by being other than ourselves. Jesus' resolution, his ironic untying from some expectations and binding himself to self-sacrifice in Jerusalem, sets us free to do likewise.
By John Fitzgibbons