Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Fr. Bill McNeeley
June 29, 2019 – 5:00PM
June 30, 2019 – 11:00AM
In several days our country will celebrate Independence Day commemorating the day or Declaration of Independence was signed. It is a seminal document of Western Civilization because it eloquently articulates the aspirations of all people at all time and throughout all history. All people want to be free. No matter what country, no matter what culture, no matter where in the world you find them, people want to be free. That is why our constitution was written was to Guarantee American citizens life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t guarantee results for we still have free will and there are certain limitations we all have to accept. For instance, I am probably not going to play in the NBA. Even when I was in my prime physically, it was never in the cards for obvious reasons, but I could have given it a shot. As it was, I decided to save my energy.
We all have the right to pursue our dreams and see where life takes us. It’s not a perfect country, not by a long shot, but as Abraham Lincoln warned his countrymen at his address to Congress just one month before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” You see, it is important what we do with our freedom. Too many people think that freedom is an entitlement to do what they want when they want and how they want. Jesus understood that to inherit the Kingdom of God, we must not look back on our former lives and our former selves. We must always be willing to sacrifice the temporal things of this life that we may enjoy forever the things of the life to come.
In the first reading, the mantle of prophet for Israel would soon transfer from Elijah with a “j” to Elisha with a “sh.” Elijah beckons Elisha to follow him, but the younger protégé wants to go back and kiss his mother and father goodbye. Elisha wants to go and bid farewell to his family, and perhaps get his affairs in order. Once he realizes he must leave everything and go right then, not only does he lay down the reins to his father’s plow, he burns everything up – there is no turning back. Elisha set the stage for what Jesus’ Apostles would do centuries later when they would lay down their nets and leave the customs post to follow him.
There is a curious exchange between the two but when it comes down to choosing between his future calling and his former life Elisha sacrifices his ox, burns them and feeds them to those present and he burns his plow which represents his livelihood. In other words, there is no going back for him. After that, Elisha follows Elijah wherever he goes as his attendant. In the gospel, Jesus seems to be saying much the same thing. I do not think Jesus literally meant for his followers to abandon their parents in their time of need. There is still the Commandment to honor your father and your mother that must be fulfilled, but what he is saying is that in the larger sense it is useless to claim to be Jesus’ follower and still try to embrace the world and its ways. The world in which we live at present is perishing. If we would take up the Gospel plow, we must not look back on our former lives or our old selves and think that we can have it both ways. We cannot, may not and must not think that we can call ourselves Christian and hang on to our sinful ways or the secular world and its wicked ways and ever hope to see the Kingdom of God. What are we willing to leave behind for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now that the Easter Season is concluded and we have celebrated the Feasts of the Ascension, Pentecost, Most Holy Trinity and the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, we have returned to Ordinary Time. The Scriptures today refer to God’s call and the necessity for us to provide an answer to that call with an act of faith. If we truly believe the Lord to be the sovereign in the center of our hearts, then we must obey God’s call without delay or excuse.
Now, in today’s Gospel, Jesus increasingly meets resistance in his efforts to seek and save the lost. Fewer and fewer people wish to accompany him, even Samaritans who previously offered him the warmest of welcomes. They know why Jesus is going to Jerusalem, and they are not sure they wish to follow him any further if it means suffering and death.
Jesus calls others to follow him but, like Elisha, they have excuses, they need more time, they are not ready to go. The Lord has nowhere to rest his head and his days are numbered, but still, he presses on, inviting others to join him along the way of the cross. They will not go. Perhaps it is a sign of the abandonment and isolation Jesus is set to endure in his last hours, as almost everyone he cared about refuses to stay at his side.
The Lord is calling all of us. He calls us to be prophets, apostles, disciples, friends, to serve one another through love, as Paul encouraged the Galatians in today’s second reading. The time for excuses is long past. Whether we feel unworthy, unwilling, or afraid, let us trust in the Lord and leave it all behind and follow him, that he might lead us to himself, to the Father and to heaven.