THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2019
When I go out to eat a restaurant, on occasion, I am brought a menu, and the wait staff says, ‘I’ll be right back to take your order.’ I now must decide from a multitude of choices. Should I try something new or pick an old reliable? After I have ordered, I began to have regrets. I shake my head, thinking maybe I should have ordered something healthy. Or I look at a nearby table and ask myself, ‘Why didn’t I choose that? It looks more appetizing than my choice.’
We go through life making choices; some are as uncomplicated as what to eat, and others that have long term consequences. Some are easily decided while others weigh heavily upon us. Picking from a multitude of options is challenging, but we would be even more frustrated when we are not allowed to decide.
Freedom of choice is a gift that the Lord as human beings. After creating Adam and Eve, God did not prevent them from eating fruit from the Tree. God permissively enables us to make choices, whether good or bad. God, however, is always providing us with wise decisions if we are listening. God is available to us at every moment to assist in making a choice. A prayer asking assistance directed towards God becomes the identifiable act that will enable us to determine the right decision. Prayer gives us the courage to follow the truth and the comfort that God will not lead us astray.
In the first reading from 1 Kings, Elijah picks Elisha, at the direction of God, to be Elijah’s replacement as the prophet for the Israelites. Elisha, listening to God, commits whole-heartedly and assures that he cannot back away from this decision. Elisha ‘burns his bridges’ using the plow to build a fire and to cook the oxen he was using to plow the field feeding his family before following Elijah. Elisha acknowledges that his vow to the Lord is greater than anything, and he will not reconsider his choice.
Such is the depth of the commitment expected for a man considering priesthood or a woman weighing life as a consecrated religious. Is one willing to make a drastic change in lifestyle by giving one’s life entirely over to the Lord? A choice of this magnitude can only be undertaken after a significant amount of time in prayer. If priesthood is right the right option, then the Father will provide that indication.
However, it is not just priests and religious sisters who need to commit to God. Each one of us sealed with the Holy Spirit through Baptism relationship with God. In our Baptism, God chose us to be his sons and daughters in the faith. Therefore, his voice calls us all to vocation for him; some to religious life, others into marriage or even to a chaste single life. We cannot sit wavering on the fence. Either we are going to commit ourselves to God, or we are going to commit to worldly desires. Do we follow the voice of God who wants to guide us to eternal happiness? Or do we want to be like Adam and Eve who listened to the devil and suffered from the effects of sin?
In the Gospel today, Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, aware of his impending death, but also knowing with the resurrection, he will be with his Father. He is resolute his journey to the Father. Nothing will sway his endeavor to enter heaven. Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem is our walk through life. We know death is also at the end of our travels. We should not be distracted by excessive human desires from achieving the glory of the Kingdom.
Jesus, on the way to his passion, meets a man whom Jesus instructs to follow him. The man replies, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” Jesus responded, “Let the dead bury their dead. But, you go proclaim the kingdom of God.” The response seems very hash to a man whose father has just died. However, Jesus is exaggerating his reply to bring to light the number of times where we have put off seeking the Kingdom of God. How often do we say… ‘This is the day I start going to daily Mass. Or this is the week that I commit myself to pray before the Blessed Sacrament for an hour. Or today I will go to Reconciliation so that I can start receiving Communion again. Or today I will call to schedule to have my child baptized. Or today, I will start the annulment process so that I can return to the full participation of the Church.’
Then we do nothing, and another day passes without us committing to the Lord. Which voice, God’s or the devil’s, is offering us advice when we say, ‘God will understand. I have time. I’ll get around to it?’ Jesus is reminding us, in rebuking the man who wanted to bury his father that every step we take brings us closer to our death and reckoning with the Lord. Jesus is telling us to stop with the excuses. Make a change NOW to commit your life to God.
Another man along the road to Jerusalem says to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus replies to him “No one who set a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom go God.” Jesus is telling us that our promise for the Kingdom lies in the future, not in the past.
The farmer knows that in plowing a field, he must have his eye turned forward to a distance for a reference to keep his furrows straight. The farmer may look back occasionally to see the progress he has made. However, if he continually focuses on the past by looking backward, his forward movement becomes erratic, and he loses the focus of his goal.
The same is true for us in life. Once we have committed to the change that God offers, we cannot be looking over our shoulder to the lifestyle of the worldly desires we have walked away from in our promise to follow him. Let us set our sights on longingly looking forward toward the spiritual happiness that extends into eternity.
So chose to follow God. It is as easy as picking a salad over those deep fat fried French fries. The choice to draw near to God will provide for the positive, long term consequence of spiritual satisfaction.
Deacon Dan Gilbert