13 Sunday Homily -C
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:16,19-21; Gal 5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62
God’s ways are mysterious. Todays’ readings are speaking three different things. God’s call, risking one’s life and Letting go. These 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. Elijah, whom he had sent to Israel, did heroic work to preserve the knowledge of true God. It was a period when pagan infiltration was at its strongest under king Ahab and his wicked wife, Queen Jezebel, a pagan from Tyre. God called a successor to Elijah, who carried on his great work and it is due to these two men of God that the ordinary people of Israel preserved true faith. Running away from queen jezebel who sought to kill him, the prophet Elijah led by the spirit went as far as Mount Horeb. There in a cave God spoke to the prophet and gave him fresh strength to go on fighting against idol-worship in Israel. He entrusted him with a task of anointing Elisha to be his successor.
Elisha must have been a rich man with large fields and many servants under him. The prophet Elijah went close to Elisha as he was plowing, without saying a word, cast his own cloak on Elisha’s shoulders and moved away.
In ancient times, to put one’s own mantle on someone else the way Elijah did with Elisha meant to communicate one’s own powers to that person.
Elisha killed his pair of bullocks in sacrifice to Yahweh and using his plough as fuel cooked the meat and invited his servants to the sacrificial meal. By so doing, he had renounced not merely his plough and bullocks but also all his possessions..
The man who had been a master until then with money and possessions became now the servant of Elijah, he had given up the secure life of a rich farmer to start a prophet’s life, a life full of risk and uncertainty. 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? Listen to God’s call and respond to it immediately with total detachment. There is a risk in it but you find true happiness.