Anthony P. Burrascano, O.S.A.
Church of Saint Augustine
1 Kgs 19: 16b, 19-21
Ps 16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Gal 5: 1, 13-18
Lk 9: 51-62
As Jesus began his public ministry, he never intended to do it alone. From the beginning he felt the need to have others involved in his life and work. Like the prophets of old, he intended to call others to follow him and to share in his life, to share in his ministry from God. Our Readings today speak of people being called to share in the work of God.
We see the first call story in the Old Testament reading from Kings where Elijah sees Elisha busy at work plowing the fields. Elijah approached Elisha and without a word placed his cloak upon Elisha. Elisha responds to Elijah by breaking up his plow and using it for fuel, then slaughters his oxen and cooks them to feed people. He gives up all that he had to immediately follow Elijah.
The call story continues in the Gospel of Luke. An individual says to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go”. Jesus sees another person and says to them, “come follow me”. He continues to call people to follow him. They are willing, but they have conditions for following Jesus.
One says, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father”. Another says to Jesus, “first let me go and say farewell to my family”. They responded positively to Jesus, but they are not quite willing to follow Christ unconditionally. They find a reason, an excuse to not follow him, at least not just yet. They are not refusing to follow Jesus but they are not quite ready at this moment. But Jesus is calling them to leave all now, and follow him; not to look back but to follow him unreservedly.
We can look at these stories and wonder why they did not respond to Jesus more quickly. After all, God is standing there and speaking directly to them and calling them individually. What a tremendous event for each of those people in their lives to be called by name by God.
As always, we need to look not just at the scripture story, but to how it applies to us in our lives.
Jesus calling people was not just an occurrence in the time of Christ. By our Baptism each and every one of us is called; called as powerfully as were the people in the time of Jesus.
Do we hear the call of Jesus? Can we honestly say that we are open to hearing God call us in our lives? Do we hear the call to a way of life, one which imitates the life of Christ? Are we open to hearing the call to be aware of the needs of others? To respond as Jesus did in reaching out to people in the needs of their life? Are we willing to give of ourselves in the way Christ did?
Or do we look for ways to block ourselves from hearing God calling us? Do we make an effort to ignore that call, fight hearing the call from God?
We may be willing to follow Christ, but do we like some in the Gospel today find an excuse not to follow Christ, at least not yet? Like them do we say we want to be like Christ but we are not quite ready to follow him at this moment? If we are honest with ourselves we will be aware of the excuses we invent to not follow Christ, or not follow him now, or not follow him “quite yet”.
We might say, “Oh yes Lord I want to follow you. I want to be your follower, I want to live as you do, but ….. But before I change my life to be more like you there are just a few things I have to do. I need to tell this one person off one more time; I have to let this other person know what I think of them; I have to clear the air with someone else. I have to get back at this person who hurt me. I have to do such and such, which is really not Christian.” There are many excuses we can find in life to follow Christ but not to do it just quite yet. Yes, we want to be a good Christian, but after a few non-Christian actions. Then we will be ready to give up all and follow Christ.
What are the things in us, in our lives which block us from following Christ, from being a better Christian right now? What are the hurdles that we have placed in our lives which stop us from changing and leading a more Christian life right now? We know what stops us. We know what we hold on to which blocks us from leading a more Christian life. We know those barriers we put up to being more Christian. The challenge for us is, what do we do to make the decision to leave all those things behind and follow Christ, now?
Throughout history God has called people to share in God’s mission on earth. Some have responded immediately, some needed more time. That same call is given to us. Do we leave all and follow Christ, or are we like the ones who say yes, but not quite just yet. What will it take for us to be better followers of Christ?