Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 26, 2022
Whom do you admire as a Christian? And why? Today’s readings highlight the demands of the Christian life. What qualities are required to follow Jesus? Jesus wants us to be faithful. He wants us to put our full attention on Him. Those are tall demands, and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can make progress toward the ideal of the disciple.
Ministry is a natural and necessary expression of the faith of the church, a graced Being consisting of a divine head (Christ) and clay feet (humankind). For this reason, ministry is a mingling of human and divine energies; a cooperative effort between God who never fails and human hands and hearts which often falter.
We immediately see the failure of human hearts and hands at the beginning of the Gospel. James and John were sent ahead of Jesus to a Samaritan village to prepare for His arrival. When these two Jews were rejected by the Gentile village, they wanted to retaliate by calling down fire from heaven on the people. James and John equated Jesus' ministry with their misconception about the Messianic mission. They thought the Messiah would enter Jerusalem to earthly glory and Jesus’ inner circle would rule the world. They were wrong and Jesus rebuked them. They did not understand the true meaning of discipleship.
Jesus goes on to emphasize the uncertainty, the priority, and the resolute nature of Christian discipleship. The ministry of Jesus and His early followers was a mobile one. They trusted God to provide. Someone who worried too much about their own needs (i.e., shelter) could not focus upon the changing nature of ministry on the road. Not only was the Christian life uncertain. It required a commitment higher than that of family.
When Jesus invites a man to “Follow Me” the man replies “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury the dead. But you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” It would seem from this statement that the man’s father was terminally ill, or the man would have been fulfilling the burial duties. Jesus’ was proclaiming that true discipleship requires instant action. Jesus did not teach people to forsake responsibilities to family, but He often gave commands to people considering their real motives. Perhaps this man wanted to delay following Christ and used his father as an excuse. There is a cost to following Jesus, and each of us must be ready to serve, even when it requires sacrifice.
In today’ reading from 1 Kings, Elijah places his cloak on Elisha’s shoulders indicating that he would be Elijah’s successor. Elisha, a wealthy farmer, killed his oxen and burned his plow making a strong commitment to Elijah. He could not return to his former life. Not only did Elisha provide a feast for his family and neighbors, but he also made an offering of thanks to the Lord for this calling. Elisha left behind everything to follow Elijah and serve God. Jesus was more demanding than Elijah who permitted Elisha to kiss his parents good-bye before leaving.
St. Paul reminds the people of Galatia that the ‘Christian Way’ did not require becoming a Jew first, following the laws of circumcision, feasts and dietary rules. Christians were freed from a life of sin and unnecessary regulations. Theirs was a life guided by the Holy Spirit to love and serve one another. “I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:16-17) Flesh is that prideful self-sufficiency which spills over into selfish words and works. “Spirit”, on the other hand, describes both the attitudes and actions in which people acknowledge their dependence on God for their being and fulfillment.
The Christian Way is a total surrender to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is the life Jesus calls us to live.
Theme in our Life Today
When others reject or scorn us, we too many want to retaliate. We must remember that judgement belongs to God. Jesus lays out His conditions for discipleship. For all of us sinners, to varied degrees, our lives are our priority. We see the universe turning around our ego, our needs, our projects and our plans, our likes and dislikes. True conversion requires a total shift in our consciousness, a whole new way of looking at one’s life. We must deny our ego. Let go of what we think is best or most important, choose what often is the hard road, make sacrifices, trust God. This is the foundation of the spiritual life.
Christian discipleship is to be unflinching. Those who are not single-hearted need not apply. For only a fool would try to commit to Christ and constantly look behind to a former life. Discipleship requires a clear understanding of the role and of the commitment. Disciples serve. A disciple makes his or her trust in the Lord the highest priority. No matter who. No matter what.
And why would we make this commitment? Because we recognize how short this life is. Our eyes are fixed on our never-ending life, on our eternal home in Heaven. This focus changes everything especially when we have fallen in love with Christ. His way is the best way. His way brings peace in all circumstances and joy even amidst suffering. We cannot do anything on own our but through Christ we can do all things! There is no greater or more rewarding journey on this earth.
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following:
Write down a simple job description of a Christian Disciple. How do you measure up? How can you improve this week?
Has God's call ever tested you to give up some personal activity? What happened? How has life in the Spirit helped you to live for others?