June 27: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:16,19-21; Gal 5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62
This Sunday our readings focus on Christ’s call to discipleship. Yet as He calls us, He leaves us free to respond. The first reading is about the call of Elisha to discipleship. It prepares us to understand Jesus as he journeys resolutely towards Jerusalem where all will be accomplished. The reading helps us to understand that God calls us out of any situation in the world. Elisha is ploughing in the field when Elijah calls him to the service of the Lord. Upon reflection, Elisha realizes that his call is urgent and runs after Elijah. In the Second Reading, Paul teaches us that Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery. We must use our freedom and choice to live by the spirit and not by the flesh. That is why he speaks of being called to liberty and guided by the Holy Spirit in making the right choices. Thus Elisha is free to follow Elijah, who tells him to go back first. He needs to show that he is truly ready to go. To do that, Elisha slaughters the very oxen he had been using for ploughing. These are symbols of livelihood for poor rural farmers. Thus killing the oxen and using the wooden plough to prepare the farewell feast is indeed a sign of total commitment. He then kisses his parents good bye before leaving all to enter into God’s service. Everything Elisha does before departure is a symbol of total detachment and that includes leaving his family behind, in order to attach himself to the service of the Lord. God’s call is therefore a serious matter.
We find that seriousness in the response Jesus gives to the would-be-disciples in the Gospel of today. The Gospel invites us to enter into a spiritual journey that will culminate in Jerusalem. There Jesus will be rejected, betrayed, persecuted, die and rise to life. We note in the Gospel that Jesus is single-minded, focusing on what he is about to do. His followers must also be focused on the purpose of their calling. Jesus therefore invites us to a spiritual journey with a purpose, prepared to lose what we hold dear in our lives including our own comfort, for “the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Proclamation of the kingdom comes first. Thus Jesus wants us to follow him now, not tomorrow or later. Christ’s call radically implies some painful and hard choices. Just as Jesus tried to prepare his disciples to understand that there was a price involved in being his disciples, we too are reminded in the words of the Gospel: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mk. 10:34). Taking one's cross, (a phrase found five times in the NT), means risking one's life, one's self-image, being rejected, ridiculed and des¬pised. It means losing one's life, even in death, for the sake of Christ. Basically carrying one’s cross means living a lifestyle of faithfulness to the cross of Jesus Christ that we have accepted to carry by the help of his grace. The Gospel reminds us that our Christian vocation to follow Christ is a serious and costly discipleship. The reading therefore leads us to reflect on what it means to follow Christ. In today’s affluent society, response to God’s call tends to be weak or even frowned upon. Some will even tell you clearly – not my son or not my daughter! Yet the same person wants more services from priests and wants to send their children to be taught by nuns! What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Our Christian vocation to follow Christ is a serious and costly discipleship that requires detachment and lots of self-sacrifice; 2) Discipleship to Christ means risking one's life, one's self-image, being rejected, ridiculed and des¬pised. It means losing one's life, even in death, for the sake of Christ; 3) Just as Elisha gave up his entire livelihood to follow God’s call, we too are challenged to do no less, to consider what we might give up in order to follow Christ much more freely, by letting go our past.
©2010 John S. Mbinda