Sunday, June 26, 2016

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Leave All Behind

Today's readings remind us of answering God's call, leaving all behind and accepting rejection for the sake of God.

In the first reading, we read of Elisha, son of Shaphat who is chosen as a disciple of the prophet Elijah. Elijah throws his cloak over him as a symbol of selection or calling (Exodus 28:2).  Elisha understood this well and left the oxen to ask Elijah for permission to say goodbye to his parents.  Elijah gives him permission.  He finishes what he had to do and joins Elijah as his attendant. This reading brings to mind when one answers a vocation whether to the priesthood, religious life (priest, brother, sister) or even the married life. We must leave all behind to do what we are called to do (Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26). This is why the Church stresses that a man or woman who feels called to the priesthood (man only) or religious life must not have any obligations at the time of application (Can. 1026). He or she must not have children that depend on them or any other responsibilities. All must be taken care of before entry just as we read with Elisha. Those called to the priesthood and religious life give up everything that is worldly. God becomes their inheritance and should be every Catholic's inheritance as we read in today's responsorial Psalm.  God is indeed our inheritance. We were created for Him and Him only (Ephesians 2:10). God is always there for us counseling us and protecting us (Isaiah 41:10). We must be glad and rejoice in Him. If we are faithful, God will not let us fall into the netherworld nor allow us to undergo corruption. We have seen how some saints literally did not see corruption in regards to their bodies.  God protected their bodies as a sign that death is not the final say of the human story. If we are faithful, God will show us the path of life (Jeremiah 29:11-13).  He will set us free from the slavery of this world as the second reading tells us.

Christ sets us free. We must stand firm and not allow ourselves to submit to the yoke of slavery (Romans 6:18).  Our call is for freedom, not slavery. As we fight on in this Fortnight for Freedom against a government that seeks to limit religion, we must not allow ourselves to become slaves to the world again.  One of the biggest ways we can become slaves is by the sins of the flesh.  Sexual drives are very powerful. In this time of summer, seeing people with less clothing or super tight clothing can stir up all kinds of passions. No one is immune to this. It happens to heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals and even those who call themselves transsexual.  We must resist these passions (Galatians 5:17). We must thank God for the beauty in others and leave it there; not dwelling on sexual thoughts.  We do this by living in the Spirit which will prevent us from desiring the flesh.

Lastly, in the Gospel, we read of Jesus being rejected at a Samaritan village. The disciples James and John wanted revenge and asked Jesus to call down fire from heaven to consume them. Jesus rebuked them because we must not be about vengeance. God will take vengeance on the last day (Romans 12:19, Deuteronomy 32:35). Ironically, Jesus did send a fire that consumed and that was on Pentecost (Luke 12:49, Acts 2). This fire would consume the disciples and Our Lady with the love of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him, we must go wherever He goes and accept the hardships (Matthew 16:24).  Jesus describes these hardships as not having a place to rest His head. Jesus is independent of this world; counter-cultural. Following Christ is a serious call regardless of one's state in the Church (laity, religious, clergy). We must put the kingdom of God first and accept even the mockery of others (Matthew 10:18 ).  Those who focus on the past or are attached to things of this world are not fit for the kingdom of God. If we take the plow to work and then stop to take a break, then we are clearly too weak for God's kingdom. The pull of this world is still strong in us. We must be willing to continue plowing, sweating and face the hardships that come with being a Catholic. As the hymn goes, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back."  Let us not turn back, but move forward to Jesus who is the Lord and source of our inheritance.  May Jesus Christ be praised!


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