Reflection for Sunday – June 26, 2022
Readings: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21;Galatians 5:1, 13-18;Luke 9:51-62
Preacher: Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler
Today, as we begin following Luke’s story of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the cross, we’re invited to reflect on the mystery at the heart of our faith. Who—and whose—are we? Discipleship. Commitment. These are the challenges our readings put before us.
Elisha, at first, appears not quite ready. Taken aback by Elijah’s unusual action. (Usually, a prophet’s call involves a direct encounter with God.) Elijah, seemingly dismissive of Elisha’s request to take proper leave of his family, is no help. Slaughtering his oxen is Elisha’s powerful statement of commitment. No going back now! Answering God’s call, he becomes Elijah’s servant. And eventual successor.
Paul urges the Galatians—and us—to live by the Spirit. Not to use the freedom Christ gave us for self-indulgence. Rather, that freedom is meant for serving one another in love. Otherwise, he warns, we will be consumed by our quarreling.
“Follow me,” Jesus says to would-be disciples. But then, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” Ouch! Jesus is telling us, before we decide to follow him, to be aware of the cost. Consider the priorities. How many of us—even some saints (think Augustine, for one) have first had excuses before answering God’s call?
There’s a tension in making choices, isn’t there? Especially when it involves choosing between two goods. Between dual loyalties. Like the man who said, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” That was a requirement of Jewish law. Is Jesus suggesting here that something else might take precedence over the law? One loyalty must take priority. One must go. Which one?
Which one, indeed? And how do we discern God’s call in our life? Following Jesus inevitably leads to the cross. Involving loss, pain, and sacrifice. What costs are you and I willing to pay? As one wag put it, decide how you would look on wood!
These days, we are watching politicians struggling with dual loyalties. Between career and conscience. Between gun safety and children’s lives. Some might say between party and the survival of our republic.
A family man I once knew faced such a dilemma. After a period of unemployment, he had been delighted to accept an offer out of town. The commute was doable. But after a couple of months, he discovered the company was involved in publishing pornography. He resigned and returned to job hunting.
The key to discerning God’s call is to remember that God comes to us disguised as life. The call of discipleship will evolve at different stages of our lives. We will hear it in prayerful exploration of our gifts and talents. In reflective listening to the Word of God. In the signs and needs of our time. In encounters with others. But the invitation to commitment remains the same. Always.
This reflective listening has led a Catholic educated retired CEO in Rochester on a journey. From—in his words—“oblivious Catholic” to anti-racist activist. Having described that call in a memoir, he is now speaking about it to groups all around the area.
In recent weeks, we have celebrated the feasts of Pentecost, Holy Trinity, and Corpus Christi. Powerful, amazing mysteries! How often do we pause in our busy lives to wonder at all that God accomplished through those early disciples? These transforming events changed a group of grieving followers. From hiding in fear for their lives. Into people on fire with the love of God. Aware of the power of the Holy Spirit given them. Willing to put their lives on the line for the mission of Jesus. God’s Spirit had made them committed disciples, beginning to change the world.
Have we not also received the power of that same Spirit? Aren’t we, too, nourished by the same power of God’s transforming, birthing, life-giving love in the Eucharist that Gloria described last week? I wonder what our country and our world would look like if you and I—and all who claim the name of Christian—paused long enough to really believe with our whole being? And to act on that belief? That is the call of committed discipleship.