Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:16,19-21; Gal 5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62
Letting go, risking one’s life and God’s call are the key words that sum up the central message of this Sunday. The readings help us to understand what it takes to follow Christ, namely that it is a serious and costly discipleship that requires detachment and lots of self-sacrifice. The first reading about the call of Elisha helps us to understand that God calls us out of any situation in the world. Elisha is plowing 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 choose to live by the spirit and not by the flesh. The flesh is heavy and imprisons us, while the spirit is light and gives us freedom to fly. That is why Paul 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 does the unthinkable! He slaughters the very oxen he had been using for plowing. If you can imagine in today’s world a young man destroying the farm tractors and combined harvesters before going to the seminary, that is what Elisha does! Everything Elisha does before departure is a symbol of total detachment.
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.” Since the Proclamation of the kingdom comes first, 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 means risking one's life, one's self-image, being rejected, ridiculed and despised. 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 readings therefore lead us to reflect on what it means to follow Christ. 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 despised. 3) Elisha gave up his entire livelihood to follow God’s call. What are we prepared to give up in order to follow Christ? What are you prepared to let go?
©2013 John S. Mbinda