Homily for Sunday, 30 June 2013
13th Sunday: 1 Kg 19:16, 19-21. Gal 5:1,13-18. Lk 9:51-62.
This Sunday is calling us to be open to changes and surprises in following Christ.
The Gospel has three people offering to follow Jesus, but he asks them to up and leave with him without any complicated preparations. His journey to Jerusalem is going to lead to Crucifixion, which seems disastrous, and yet it leads to Resurrection, which is marvelous! But do we really have faith? Are we willing to risk a lot in following Christ? The first reading has Elisha abandoning his oxen in order to follow Elijah, and the young man's sacrifice will eventually bring benefits. But it involved taking the step of leaving his oxen.
This isn't a cheap propaganda campaign; since as two individuals offer to follow Jesus, he ensures them that it'll bring challenges: "The Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." (Lk 9:58). That's hardly very enticing! But his road leads to Eternal Life and that's enticing! And the fact that Jesus isn’t just trying to ‘entice’ like an advertiser but speaks clearly, makes me trust more! He always tells the truth. If we could just break free of the ties of mundane riches, honors and pleasures, then we could offer our lives as resting places where Christ could lay his head and that would actually bring great rest for us ourselves! Maybe I'm a bit mad, but the more I've opened up my life to Christ, the more I've felt peacefully at rest. They won't be putting 'Rest in Peace' over my gravestone for a while yet, but if the Son of God himself has been willing to offer his flesh and blood on a bloody cross for us humans, then I feel very peaceful already and it's a joyful peace.
In the Gospel, the people of Samaria don't want to welcome Jesus, because he was obviously on his way to Jerusalem, and the Samaritans didn't like that. They didn't like it because Jerusalem represented Conservative Judaism set in its ways, whereas Samaria was on the outskirts, and had been more volatile. Conservative Jews considered Samaria to be a region of inferior dignity. That's one of the reasons why the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in John 4 is relevant.
The first reading is of Elijah calling Elisha, and he advises the young man not to complicate things too much in arranging his exit with his family. They do set up a little 'good-bye feast' with the oxen, but then they set off. The little feast is like a little celebration of the good news that the life of Elisha himself was about to be offered to God.
The second reading has St Paul telling the Galatians that a new door of love has been opened for them by Christ, but that they've got to avoid distorting that new path of love with selfish mundane love. Christ has freed us, and yet Paul is advising us to take care so that we don't use our new freedom in a selfish way - 'for the flesh'.
We're all the 'property' of God but He wants us to be free. So the best thing we can do is freely give ourselves to be his 'property'. He even helps us do that by the call to follow Christ and the result is that we end up more truly free! I agreed to become a missionary years ago, and we have all chosen some kind of plan for our lives, but is the book closed for you? Hopefully not. God keeps proposing new things! Following Christ may bring challenges in life, but that's just along the way. The passion of Jesus certainly shows us that. But it's followed by Resurrection, and that shows that our destination is secure!
The Passion of Jesus is speaking to us of a problem that's on-going for God. You could say that many centuries after the passion of Jesus in Jerusalem; he's still suffering the effects of our lack of love. It's the passion of Christ. It's relevant that chapter 9 of Acts of the Apostles, which is after the Resurrection of the Gospels, tells of Saul of Tarsis having a vision of Christ on the Cross asking "Why are you crucifying me?". In other words, the Cross is on-going still. Saul of Tarsis, who had been a persecutor of Christians, thereafter became St Paul, the tremendous Christian missionary! Perhaps that's a call to all of us. Multiple sclerosis doesn't remove that!
Opening to Christ means opening to his ambition for us, and St Paul says that we all have the potential to be 'living Christs'. Vatican II said this: 'God predestined us to become formed to the image of his Son.' (LG 2:16).
Jesus isn't seeking admirers as much as immitators! 'For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. 24 He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like.' (James 1:23-24). Do you really know yourself? 'God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him in love.' (Eph1:4). 'Christ' means 'the chosen' and that's why chrism was used at your baptism. But do we live up to our Baptism?
The history of a famous Toulouse Lautrec painting is interesting. He is now a famous French painter of the late 19th century but in his lifetime he lived unrecognized by the art world. Long after his death, one of his works was for sale in a Parisian 'junk shop'. It caught the eye of a man who looked closely and saw the signature and immediately bought it. It's now a priceless content of the Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris.
Also, a painting on the wall of a house in Leeson Street, Dublin, was pretty much ignored until a community of Jesuits moved in, and they found out that it was a Caravagio, which is now priceless! This makes me think of each of our lives: They may seem unimportant in the 'junk shop' of society but it would be great if we could all recognize the artist's signature ... and He made us in His 'image and likeness'. (Gen 1:26)!
I like the way that Jesus doesn't try and 'seduce' or 'brainwash' like some kind of commercial advertising. If someone fixes their mind on obeying Christ no matter what, then his 'challenging' path, turns out to be enjoyable! Mary said the 'yes' which opened up the incarnation of Christ for us all, but Jesus himself says that we can actually follow her 'yes': 'While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed." 28 He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."' (Lk 11:27-28). Will you open up to that?