I first moved away from my parents’ home in August of 2012. At the time, I was moving into a first-year residence hall at Loyola Marymount University, which is about an hour northeast of my parents’ home. Well, an hour without traffic. If you’re familiar with Southern California, then you won’t be surprised to hear that sometimes LMU was over three hours away from my family’s home…Since that weekend when my parents and sisters helped move me in, I’ve moved in and out of three residence halls, one house in Argentina, and six apartments in Boston, Indianapolis, and Chicago. I guess it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve moved around a lot—I’ve been welcomed into and left many communities in my life.
I now live in Chicago with my husband and have the great blessing of being able to visit my side of the family in California several times each year. It’s been a while since I was a student living a pretty transient life; there’s much more stability in my life now, but leaving my parents’ home in California is always pretty difficult. When I visit them, I tend to book late night red eye flights out of the Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday evenings to maximize my time with them before returning to my life in Chicago. I’ve done it enough, so I can give you a pretty clear run-down of how those Sunday nights go: sometime in the afternoon, my abuelos, tía, tío, and cousins stop by to say goodbye. Maybe we have some cafecito, maybe some leftover snacks or dessert from the previous day’s festivities. They leave a little bit before dinnertime to let me do my last-minute packing. After I quickly put my belongings in my backpack, my parents, sisters, and I sit down for a quick dinner. My mom never fails to pack me some snacks (thanks mom!). Coco, our dog, mopes because she knows what my gathered belongings near the garage door means. I hug both of my sisters goodbye and struggle to remind myself that I’ll see them soon, even if I do not know when “soon” might be. I close the garage door behind me and I’m met with a cool, Southern California evening breeze. My dad has already pulled the car out, nervous about the traffic we will probably hit, especially on Sepulveda, on our way to LAX. The palm trees outside of this place that I will always call home seem to wave goodbye and, no matter how many times this evening repeats itself, I always find myself fighting back tears. With my things in the trunk of the car, my parents and I say a prayer and we head to the airport.
Once we get to LAX, the frenzy of stop-and-go cars, honking horns, and lots of people seem to whirl around us. My parents always graciously walk me inside and I hug them goodbye. I have to admit that I usually can’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion as I walk through the barricades set up at security checkpoints. Kind of like a movie, I turn around and my parents are always standing there waving. At that, I pass through security and in the business of the airport, I reflect on the evening. This evening ritual is one that has taken place several times each year over the course of the last several years. I say goodbye to that home in California because God has called me to create a home elsewhere—a home in a different city where I give my gifts to serve the Church as a lay woman in ministry.
In my reflection, I’m often reminded of the cost of discipleship. “I will follow you!” says an unnamed, eager disciple to Jesus in today’s Gospel. “…but first, let me say farewell to my family at home.” I myself utter those words in my prayers so often. Because I know those words so intimately, hearing Jesus’ response to the disciple is quite striking to me: he says, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” At first, I was surprised by Jesus’ seemingly unconcerned reply—I’ve responded to Jesus’ call to follow him; how does saying my goodbyes make me unfit?
Let’s go back to the first reading from the first Book of Kings. Growing up, my parents always emphasized the beauty of being bilingual. Today, I’d like to invite you to reflect on the Spanish translation with me, as it helped me to better unpack what we might be invited to see in this Sunday’s readings. In this passage, Elisha asks Elijah if he can kiss his father and mother goodbye before following Elijah. In the Spanish translation, Elijah answers Elisha: “Ve y vuelve, porque bien sabes lo que ha hecho el Señor contigo.” Elijah tells Elisha to go, say his goodbyes, and return because he knows what the Lord is calling him to. At the end of today’s passage, Elisha returns to place himself at the service of Elijah.
When we put these passages together, we see that Scripture may not be suggesting we entirely forgo saying goodbye; we, as Jesus’ disciples were, are being invited to embrace freedom and shift our attention onto something else. After saying goodbye to my family in California, it’s easy for me to think solely of everyone and everything that I’m leaving behind. It is my concentration on that, not my goodbyes, that may make me unfit. We are being asked to focus on the kindom of God—not to be absorbed by what we lose when we say “yes” to following Jesus. There is a cost to discipleship, but there is much more gain. Today’s Psalm reminds us that our hearts should be glad and our souls rejoice as we follow Christ!
I mentioned earlier that I’ve moved around a lot. Though I am an immigrant to the United States, I’ve always been certain of where I would rest my head. I invite you today to pray for migrants, displaced persons, and those experiencing homelessness—those whose journeys lead to suffering. We know what Jesus will encounter in Jerusalem because we know the suffering that precedes his resurrection; those following Jesus did not. Luke tells us that Jesus was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,” yet another hint that he knew of the agony he would endure. He says that “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Despite the temptation he likely faced to stay in the comfort and familiarity of Galilee, Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem. Just like Jesus, many of our neighbors often find themselves going somewhere uncertain, headed into the terrifying unknown, likely with nowhere to rest their heads. And yet, like Jesus, they courageously go anyway. Let’s pray today for those who chose to leave their homes and are persecuted on the way to their destinations. How can you provide refuge? How can you serve one another through love?
As you reflect on today’s readings, consider what goodbyes you need to say to be glad and rejoice in following God. How are you dwelling on opportunities of the flesh, on lamenting what you leave behind, instead of working to hone in on where you can go with Jesus?
So, say your goodbyes—grieve and cry if you need to! But make sure you turn and focus on the work ahead.
Krista Chinchilla-Patzke was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala and raised in Southern California. She serves as the Faith and Justice Campus Minister at Loyola University Chicago. Her passion for ministry was ignited by faith-based service and immersion opportunities; she is grateful to oversee programs in which undergraduate students, faculty, and staff can engage issues of justice, learn about advocacy, and consider culturally responsive ministry. She cultivated her pastoral approach in her prior professional work at Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana and Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.
She earned an MA in Theology and Ministry from the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College and a BA in Theology and Psychology from Loyola Marymount University. Krista's Jesuit education has greatly influenced her passion for justice and her love for theology.
In her free time, Krista loves traveling, exploring breweries in Chicago, doing yoga, and experimenting with plant-based recipes. She is grateful for her husband, Steven, and her family, who have taught her the importance of welcoming all to a table where bread is to be broken in unity.
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