Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (25 & 26/6/22)

posted 28 Jun 2022, 01:31 by Parish Office

Following the Lord requires enthusiasm. Giving your life to Him requires commitment. And these mean that there is no turning back.

Our Lord led by example. This is what we just heard: “As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely [emphasis added] took the road for Jerusalem”. He knew what was coming up, and He resolutely took that path.

But lest anyone think that that sense of determination was only supposed to apply to the Lord, look at what He said to those who wanted to follow Him. He wasn’t so desperate for followers that He would just take anyone. “Let me go and buy my father first”, one of them said. Our Lord’s response seems harsh, but He could read people’s hearts and He knew this person was just inventing excuses. It seems like an ideal obstacle to put in the way: I would follow you, but family bereavement mean that I will have to wait a bit first. At that point, most people would back off, not wanting to appear lacking in compassion. It was an ideal excuse, or so he thought. But Jesus saw straight through his idleness: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God”.

Or what about the second person: “I will follow you sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home [emphasis added]”. More excuses again. Just let me do this first. And then, he might say, “oh, I forgot. I just need to go and do so-and-so as well. And now my brother has come round to visit, and it would be rude to disappear without spending time with him first.” That’s no good. Radical commitment is required. Following the Lord is not for the faint-hearted: “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”. With farming, if you look back whilst you are ploughing, you stop ploughing in a straight line and mess everything up. Perhaps today you could say something like: no-one who is driving a car should start turning around and taking a look for sweets on the back seat. It’s no good following the Lord and to keep on thinking, “what if…?”. Your eye needs to be on the Lord, not on other things.

Contrast this with Elisha in the first reading. To begin with, Elisha says to Elijah, “Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you”. It’s possible that his mother and father could have been living miles away. Elisha wasn’t just cutting the lawn in the back garden. But once again, radical commitment is needed if Elisha is going to be the prophet to succeed Elijah. So Elisha slaughtered the oxen, and used the plough as firewood to cook them. His old way of life was over. There was to be no turning back. “He then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.”

We might be tempted to think that this radical commitment belongs only to priests and religious – they are the ones who are called to follow the Lord to whichever parish, chaplaincy or apostolate the Lord sends them to; they are the ones that leave home, father and mother behind, and sometimes possessions as well. But there are other forms of radical commitment in the Christian life. Does not the Lord say, “This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.” We know that Christ raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. We know that sacraments are permanent and they are a means of Christ and His grace being present in two people’s lives. We know that for some, God calls them to serve Him by being married – that is their vocation. But, like I say, not everyone is called to be married. However, all of us, as Christians, are baptised, and we are confirmed once we reach a certain age. Baptism and confirmation are both sacraments. They are permanent. You can’t undo baptism and confirmation, and that is why they can’t be repeated. You can’t issue a piece of paper and say that someone is now no longer baptised or confirmed. So all of us are called to a radical serving of the Lord. Through baptism and confirmation, we are “set apart” for Him. What Christ said to the person who made excuses, He says to us too: “your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God”.

Baptism is such a radical commitment and belonging to the Lord that it overrides everything else. To give an extreme example: some people take part in satanic ceremonies, in which they claim to “sell their soul to the devil”. Afterward they are sometimes afraid of what might happen to them next, and they think it is a one-way street. It is not. The devil was a liar from the beginning. As a baptised person, you belong to the Lord. You cannot sell yourself to the evil one. Yes, you have given yourself into his power, but there is a way out. Go to confession and confess that sin (plus all the other ones as well), and renew your baptismal promises. Renounce satan, and all his works, and all his empty show.

The second reading: “When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” The devil is a liar and a deceiver. Whilst we may not want to serve him openly, he tries to make us submit to what St Paul refers to as “self-indulgence”, selfish behaviour that comes cloaked in all sorts of disguises.

Following the Lord requires enthusiasm. Giving your life to Him requires commitment. And these mean that there is no turning back.