The Calling to Follow Unconditionally: 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
In the first reading, 1 Kings 19, Yahweh appears to Elijah in a cave, or a cleft in the rock on a mountain; warning of the fury that He will bring down on the Israelites (in of hurricanes and earthquakes) for their lack of faith in Him and their worship of the Babylonian idol Baal. In 1KGS 19:16B, we see the selection of the righteous leadership approved by Yahweh; since He will only spare seven thousand, those who have not worshipped Baal (1KGS 19:18). We also learn the order in which Yahweh has chosen His successor of Elijah, the great prophet, in 1 Kings 19:15B-16, “and said to Elijah: ‘You must go and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. You must anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you.’” Elijah anoints Elisha as his successor; who will in fact; anoint the new kings with Yahweh’s blessing at a later date.
In 1 KGS 19:19-21, we learn of the calling of Elisha to become the successor of Elijah. In 1 KGS 19:19, “Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.” The cloak symbolizes the person and rights of its owner. In the case of Elijah, he has miraculous powers given to him by Yahweh. He has been given great respect, as the prophet of the king. The transferring of the cloak to Elisha also entails the selection and the future gift of prophecy from Yahweh, Himself. This gift is a great honor to serve and a great blessing.
In 1 KGS 19:20-21, “Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.’ Elijah answered, ‘Go back! Have I done anything to you?’ Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat.
Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.” The slaughtering of the oxen and destroyed the plowing equipment as a symbol the renouncing of the old life. The old life would be replaced by the new life of learning from Elijah, and of being Yahweh’s future prophet to the kings and people.
In the second reading comes from Paul to the Galatians. In Ga 5:1, Paul is reminding the Galatians: “Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” This yoke of slavery refers to circumcision. Christ has set all Gentile believers in Him free of following Jewish Law. As a matter of fact, to return to circumcision, as a rite of Christian membership, would be to renounce the freedom brought by faith in Christ Jesus. Christians no longer had to be Jewish first or follow the Jewish rite of entrance—circumcision. For the right of entrance for Christians was and is now to—simply believe in Him.
In Ga 5: 13-15, we learn of the new life of faith that is filled with love. “For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (referring to sins of the flesh and self-indulgences); rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The use of the word neighbor now has a new meaning under the New Law of Christ. It no longer refers to the Old Testament term in Leviticus as “a member of the same people”; rather, it refers to a member of the same human species. And we are to use our freedom to choose, to choose to love all people, born and unborn! We are warned by Paul what will happen if we continue on destroying others. “But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” The fighting and destroying of each other will do nothing but destroy our eternal soul if we are not conscious of the freedom given by Jesus Christ.
In Ga 5: 16-17, Paul warns us of the dangerous result in living a life of self-gratification based on the fulfillment of earthly and bodily pleasures: “I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.” As Lucifer was evicted from heaven, God gave him dominion over earth. These desires of the flesh, mentioned by Paul, are the entrance way into our minds and souls. If Satan can control our minds and thoughts, he can control our desires and lusts.
If he can control our lusts of the flesh, then he is controlling our minds and thoughts because we’ve let him in; thus resulting in the destruction of our Spirit, as we are consciously or unconsciously justifying the very sin that Satan has planted in our minds. Our Spirit is guided by the Holy Spirit, at our every move, but if we look away from the Spirit and choose the flesh—we have chosen Satan over God. “But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”(Ga 5: 18) There is no need to worry about fulfilling any law, when the Holy Spirit is guiding your life; for the Spirit is pure goodness, and pure means not tainted in any way.
In Lk 9:51-56, we realized that many people will be inhospitabile to the Word of Jesus and will attack us verbally or even physically, but we must be determined to reach them as well. “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.” Luke is eluding to Jesus being “taken up” as the Passion which was to happen. As we can see by Jesus’ example, he was “resolutely determined” to spread the Word of the kingdom of God to the enemy of the Jews, the Samaritans, but was not received. “On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. Comically, James and John, the sons of Zebedee (known as the “sons of thunder”) show their temper and malice for their taught enemies. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.” Clearly, these two brothers, though extremely close to Jesus as part of the inner-circle of Jesus and two of the first apostles chosen by Jesus, still did not get the message that Jesus was trying to teach. He rebukes them, as to say, he tells them to “be quiet,” if you please, because they are willing to use force to get the Samaritans to listen. This clearly is not the way that Jesus was looking to “save” the human race by his upcoming death on the cross.
In Lk 9:57-62, we learn that there are a few that decide, half-heartedly, to follow Jesus. “As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’ And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, ‘Lord, let me go first and bury my father.’ But he answered him, ‘Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” At this point, Jesus is not trying to be cruel, on the contrary—He is teaching that He needs people of passion to drop the earthly, fleshly desires and seek Eternal Life because those that have passed, have passed, but the time is now for those that still have the chance. Yet, they didn’t understand and they were willing at word only, but not in their hearts to give up what they had on earth. “And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Finally, the Gospel of Luke tells us a very important message, which concludes the fervor we must have to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. ”To him Jesus said, ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.’” The message is this—in order to reach the kingdom of Heaven, we must look ahead and forget about our past faults, sins and past distractions. We must, as Jesus did, take up our cross and live a life of sacrifice, giving up the fleshly, earthly pleasures and follow Jesus with all we have. We must change our lives and live righteously. It all starts today! And we must be relentless!