Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: 1 Kgs 19:16,19-21; Gal 5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62

Determination to follow God’s call and the cost of discipleship help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. The first reading from the First Book of Kings is about the call of Elisha. The passage dramatizes the implications of responding to God’s call. Elisha does the unthinkable. What he does is madness in the eyes of the world, but a wonderful metaphor for total detachment. He slaughters the very oxen used for plowing! If you can imagine in today’s world a young man destroying all the farm machines and tools before going to the seminary that is what Elisha does by destroying the source of family livelihood.

In the Gospel, Jesus challenges some would be disciples by highlighting the excuses they give when God calls them. The Gospel applies to us too and challenges our temptation of telling Jesus “let me finish up a few things first, and I’ll follow you later when I have less responsibility”. Jesus invites us to let go everything so we may be free to follow him. 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 hard choices and a price to pay. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mk. 10:34). In other words, following Jesus implies risking one's life, one's self-image, being rejected, ridiculed and despised. It means losing one's life, even by death, for the sake of Christ. Let me finish with a brief story.

A true story is told about a captain with 600 sailors who arrived by sail boats on the East Coast in the 16th century. The captain was so determined to stay that he took a risk by ordering the destruction of the sail boats by fire. Burning the boats meant that there was no turning back. With no other option, the sailors and their families took the risk but were now free to forge ahead and settle in the new world. This story illustrates the risk involved in freeing ourselves in order to respond to God’s call. There’s nothing like burning your boats to focus your mind on God’s call only without any other option. In God’s call there is no plan B! It means taking the risk to let go and let God take over your life. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Our response to God’s call implies doing the unthinkable like the captain in the story burning the sail boats, thereby freeing himself and the sailors to settle down in the new world.  2) Our response like that of Elisha means giving up our livelihood, family and friends in order to follow God’s call. 3) Christian stewardship implies lots of self-sacrifice including risking one's life, one's self-image, being rejected, ridiculed and despised. 4) You and I are called to let go in order to be free to follow Christ. The bottom line question is: what boats are you prepared to burn and so free yourself to follow Christ?

 ©2016 John S. Mbinda

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