This can be taken in three ways. First, he is going to Jerusalem to die, for it is in Jerusalem that he was crucified and buried.
Second, it could mean he is going to Jerusalem to rise from the dead.
Third, it could mean he is on his way to the heavenly Jerusalem, i.e. to heaven, where he will gather all his saints, his Mother Mary Most Holy, and the Blessed who have died in him. (for more on the Heavenly Jerusalem go HERE)
Of course, Jerusalem stands as the destination for all these events. Jesus cannot ascend to heaven until he is raised from the dead; and he cannot rise from the dead unless he first dies.
What I am interested in for my life and that of the people I pastor is what the implications are for our following Jesus to Jerusalem. Or to put it more specifically, to know how we are called to die in Christ so as to rise in him and also live forever in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
To die and rise with Christ is to share his Paschal Mystery. This Paschal, or Passover, Mystery describes to his Death and Resurrection. Dying and rising in Christ is the pattern of our Christian life. It does not simply refer to our physical death or the resurrection of our physical bodies one day. It is first a spiritual (i.e., Holy Spirit filled) dying and rising beginning at our Baptism. We are committed in our Baptism to die spiritually to all sin and self-centeredness and to rise to a new life in Christ, a life of love as God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love one another. (Hence we are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit).
This is all basic Christianity 101. What this Sunday’s passage about Jesus on a journey does is remind me that I, too, am on a journey. A journey naturally leads to a destination (unless we go astray). Once you get to your destination, you are no longer on a journey, unless you begin another journey.
If I am on a journey to die with Christ, then that means I haven’t arrived yet at a perfect state of being "dead to sin, but alive in Christ Jesus." (See Romans 6:11 HERE) If I am on a journey to rise to a new life in Christ and the Holy Spirit, that means I haven’t arrived yet at a perfect state of living the new life of Christ. I certainly am still on a journey where the destination is heaven, and that will happen only when I do physically die and am purified of all sin in Purgatory, if I remain faithful to Christ Jesus.
This thought of journey, then, gives me great comfort; it is not, however, an excuse to avoid progressing forward in Christ. If I go astray or even go backward, I am not heading closer to my destination. And actually the journey to dying in Christ actually involves dying to sin and selfishness while I’m on the journey, not till a future date; the same with rising to new life, the rising happens on the journey, not just at the end of the journey. Even heaven can be experienced in moments on earth.
I’m sure some of these thoughts will probably be incorporated in my homily this Sunday. The Gospel, by the way, warns against our excuses for delaying the spiritual journey, as we will hear.