This week is the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are about God’s call and peoples’ response and commitment to His call. The call of God demands a total commitment in total freedom with the spirit of patient love. It requires the speaking of an unconditional “Yes” to Jesus and to the Christian life as a true disciple of Christ. By Baptism we are all called; the question is, however, are you committed to your call, doing His work, and doing what you are expected to do?
The first reading is taken from the first Book of Kings. The reading describes Elijah’s attempt to resign from God’s service. However, God did not accept Elijah’s resignation because He had a plan for him, just as He has a plan for each and every one of us. Instead, He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor. This was in keeping with the tradition in the early history of salvation of passing the “mission” of being a prophet from one prophet to another. Sometimes, the prophet had a token or symbol of his ministry. In Elijah’s case, this symbol was a cloak, which symbolized authority, which he threw over Elisha. This gesture meant that Elijah was passing on his God-given authority to Elisha. As a sign of his acceptance, Elisha went home and slaughtered the twelve yoke of oxen he had been using for plowing, cooked their flesh and gave the meat as a meal to those who depended upon him. This might seem a bit cruel, but this action shows Elisha’s passion and love for God’s work so much so that he even sacrificed his own livelihood, which was most dear to him. With this, Elisha’s left all his family, his work, and his wealth behind. Having left everything, he followed the Lord as his prophet.
In the second reading, Paul reminds all ministers of the Good News that the very Spirit of God is the criterion by which they are to measure themselves. Paul also clarifies that true freedom consists of our total conformation into the likeness of Jesus Christ and in listening to the voice of God. Paul says: “Do not use your freedom, brothers and sisters, as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, use it to serve one another through love.” We begin to experience true freedom when we commence the process of commitment to God and to one another. Our freedom is realized only when we give ourselves away in love. Instead of living a life of self-indulgence, one who follows Jesus accepts a ministry of service that is rooted in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.
The first part of today’s Gospel is a description of Jesus’ teaching on Christian tolerance. Jesus had just witnessed the angry response of two of his apostles, James and John, when the local people refused to receive Jesus as a prophet and refused Him hospitality as He traveled through Samaria to Jerusalem. The apostles asked Jesus to destroy the Samaritans by bringing down fire from Heaven, which Jesus refused to do. Refusing to invoke a violent response against the Samaritans, Jesus simply continued on his way to Jerusalem.
In the second part of today’s Gospel, Luke introduces three potential disciples to whom Jesus explained the commitment required and the cost involved to become a disciple. After these potential disciples offered clearly inadequate reasons as to why Jesus’ call to ministry was “impossible” for them to accept, they were found unfit and unprepared to follow Jesus. The reading reminds us that discipleship takes precedence over family ties and obligations, and the relationship of Jesus and His disciples is permanent and unconditional. Like Elisha and the people in the Gospel reading, we too are called to a life of commitment which begins by being faithful to our call. We all have a call, a specific way of life, through which we are invited to grow in holiness and to encounter Jesus. Hence, we need to pray for strength to renew our determination to walk with Jesus by being loyal to our spouses, our families, and God’s people by loving God and one another.
As announced last weekend, we have a missionary priest, Rev. Tony Stanonik, with us this week. He will speak at all Masses about his missionary work in the diocese of Bluefields, Nicaragua. As I welcome Rev. Stanonik to our parish to share his missionary work with us, I ask you to be as generous as you have always been and extend a warm welcome to Rev. Stanonik during his visit.