BY: Fr. Augustine IKechukwu Opara




(1KINGS 19:16B,19-21; GALATIANS 5:1,15-18; LUKE 9:51-62)

On this thirteenth Sunday of the liturgical calendar, the story of the call of Elisha is clearly chosen by the Church in the first reading to pair with the latter part of the Gospel reading, for Jesus’ call to the unnamed disciple seems to be modelled on Elijah’s call to Elisha. Elijah’s gesture of throwing his mantle over Elisha is to claim Elisha as his own. When Elijah is taken up to heaven his mantle falls on Elisha again, giving him a double share of his spirit. By slaughtering the oxen and burning the tackle Elisha destroys his own livelihood. This bears a great meaning: he “killed everything” that could constitute a distraction to serving God. He did this to show them that he was totally committed to his newfound love.
St. Theresa of Avila once said, “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies!” in today’s gospel Jesus sounds harsh, because all the things that these near-disciples want to do are good things – they want to be good sons and good fathers. They want to be sure that their future is secure, and that their families will be ok. Those are admirable things! I think the Gospel is bringing out these rather harsh examples as hyperbole (intentional exaggeration) – to prove some points about what it means to be a disciple, what it costs to be a disciple.

Hence these three lessons on the uncompromising demands of discipleship. These are not ‘counsels of perfection’ but demanded of every disciple of Jesus. First: The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Jesus reminds us that a disciple’s resting place is in heaven. The disciple has no right to luxury here on earth. Second: perhaps the most counter-cultural of all Jesus’ demands, for burying a dead father was regarded as a sacred duty, and yet not even this may stand in the way of a response to the call of Jesus. We do not have to see the Kingdom as something secondary, He points out that for a disciple, the Kingdom is his primary responsibility. Thirdly, no backward glance even to bid the family farewell. Not even the most sacred of natural ties (family) may stand in the way of the demands of following Jesus. He points out that discipleship is not about where we have gone, but where we are going.

What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ then? Perhaps for many people, following the Lord meant keeping the rules of the Church and being careful to avoid sin. While there is nothing wrong with keeping the rules of the Church and avoiding sin, this is surely not a description of following the Lord. Following the Lord Jesus means allowing Him to change every aspect of our lives so that we More Clearly Reflect His Way of Living, of Thinking and of Being and that is precisely why we are called Christians. That is what we call total commitment. We must realize that following the Lord Jesus means that at all times even when we will feel rejected, we must keep on walking and letting the Lord form us. “Semper et ubique fidelis”- always and everywhere faithful.

My brothers and sisters, the gospel brings us to the zenith of this total commitment to the Lord. In it, Christ himself makes a categorical statement: “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” So, this Sunday, the church calls us Like Elisha, to “slaughter” all the forces, obstacles and vices like selfishness, materialism, greed, pride, laziness, immorality, cheating, backbiting, gossiping, avarice, nepotism, tribalism, etcetera, that prevent us from serving the Lord well. If we are totally committed to the Lord, He will definitely show us the part of life and true freedom in this world and beyond. Nothing less than a total commitment is needed for a lifelong journey of Christian discipleship.
God bless you!

Fr. Augustine IKechukwu Opara

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