DETAILED HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIHI ME YEAR C
THEME: ARE YOU A FAN OR A FOLLOWER OF JESUS
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY JUNE 26 2022
R1 – 1Kgs 19:16-21
R2 – Gal 5:1,13-18
GOSPEL – Luke 9:51-62
A group of Christians was holding a Prayer Meeting in Russia, in a communist era, when such a thing was completely forbidden. Suddenly the door was broken down by the boot of a soldier, who came into the room, faced the group, with a machine gun in hand, and commanded, “If there’s any one of you who doesn’t really believe in Jesus, then get out now, while you have a chance.” There was a rush for the door. The soldier then closed the door and stood in front of the remainder of the group, with machine gun in hand. He looked around the room, as the people were beginning to think that their end had come. Then he smiled and said, “Actually, I believe in Jesus too, and you’re better off without those others. They lack commitment to the faith.”
Beloved in Christ, the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy invite us to examine ourselves and respond to the basic and fundamental question of how we would honestly define our relationship with Jesus…Are we just “enthusiastic admirers,” which is the dictionary definition of “a fan,” or are we followers, which is what a disciple (from the Latin discipulus -a student or trainee or apprentice) is all about?
However, from the above introit story, we see the true definition of a follower and a fan of Jesus. Followers are committed faithful who remain steadfast and resilient, even in the face of afflictions, threats and impending death; whereas, fans abscond and take the exit door at a slightest provocation by difficulies or hardship.
The first reading describes how Elisha committed himself whole-heartedly to answer God’s call to be a prophet, when God called him through the prophet Elijah. Elisha’s total commitment was phenomenal as manifested in his eagerness to go through Bethel to Gilgal and from Jordan to Jericho; undergoing the rigour of true disciplship before receiving the double portion of Elijah’s power ( 2 Kgs 2:1-13).
In the second reading, St Paul chides the gentile converts on the need to follow Jesus with total commitment. He exhorts them not to give any attention to the false teaching of Judaizers.
The Gospel reading, especially the second part, presents to us three aspirants potential disciples who failed on the mission of following Jesus because of lack of commitment. But on the long run, they presented flimsy and lame excuses that made it impossible for them to follow Jesus; after Jesus had told them plainly what the commitment required, and the cost involved. They were found unfit and unprepared to follow Jesus as his disciples.
So, we christians, who claim to be the followers of Jesus, ought to ask ourselves if we are really committed to follow Jesus totally and immediately, without any reservations, both by giving priority to him and to his cause and by surrendering our lives to God in humble and dedicated service to others? This is because, many who claim to be followers of Jesus are mere fans not followers.
*A FAN OR A FOLLOWER?*
They are two different things, being a fan and being a follower.
*WHO IS A FAN?*
A fan is simply “an enthusiastic admirer.” A fan is someone who gets excited by something or someone, especially if they are doing something that brings pleasure to them. The truth of the matter is that, you can admire someone, even enthusiastically; and still not follow Him. This is the case of these trio who admired Jesus but couldn’t pay the price of following him. Rather, they manufactured excuses to evade the mission. Two major characteristics of a fan include:
(i) *THEY ARE AFTER BENEFITS*
A fan is chiefly after what they can get from the one they admire in the name of giveaway or positive result and once it is not forthcoming, they take a leave. A good example is Jesus’ reply to a group of fans who were looking for him to serve them lunch, “I tell you the truth, you to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you” (John 6:26–27).
So, any Christian who turns to God only in time of need is a fan not a follower.
(ii) *THEY LACK PATIENCE AND RESILIENCE*
On another note, fans take the exit door when the going gets tough. They lack resilience, patience and faithfulness when there is failure and need for steadfastness. They are like Arsenal and Chelsea football fans, who are excited for their teams when they do well, but if they have a long streak of doing poorly, they often lose interest in them. Many Christian too are not ready to withstand trial or adversity.
*WHO IS A FOLLOWER?*
A follower is one that follows the opinions or teachings of another and strives to imitate them with total commitment – from the Latin “discipulus,” meaning, a student, disciple or apprentice. Two notable features of a follower include:
(i) *A FOLLOWER IS ALWAYS COMMITMENTED*
Followers are always committed to the one they are following. They don’t just watch. They are involved. They are in service. That means they are doing what the one they are following wants. Or, they are doing what the one they are following is doing.
(ii) *FOLLOWERSHIP REQUIRES DENIAL AND SACRIFICE*
_Dietrich Bonhoeffer_ , in his book The Cost of Discipleship, says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Real followers begin the journey of followership with self denial. That is why Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Such denial means self abandonment of ones belief, ideologies, lifestyle and way of life in order to prioritise that of the one we follow. By so doing, we draw close to Jesus and follow Him wherever He goes. It is only at this point that we experience an intimacy with Jesus that is much deeper than those who were merely fans. This is exactly what the fans in the Gospel pericope lacked.
(1) *TRUE DISCIPLESHIP OR FOLLOWERSHIP REQUIRES COMMITMENT*
The theme of commitment is vital in today’s liturgy. Commitment is the hallmark and cost of true discipleship. Obviously, we are here this morning because of our commitment to follow Jesus. Commitment entails being faithful to the faith and being convinced in our Christian convictions. By commitment, we offer our hearts, minds and wills to the course of following the master Jesus. Without commitment, we make Jesus our follower instead of him being our leader and we, his followers. Remember, ” _onye butere chi ya uzo, ogbagburu onwe ya na oso.”_
(2) *WE OUGHT TO IMBIBE THE VIRTUE OF PATIENCE*
The first part of today’s Gospel presents us with the theme of tolerance. Here, Jesus leaves us with an example of real patient love, that propels us to bear with one another. Quick anger over little incidents flares up all the time in our neighbourhood and relationships. The sons of thunder wanted Jesus to call down thunder to descend from above and destroy the Samaritans who opposed their journey and refused them entry.
Finally, a certain atheist millionaire of Philadelphia, Mr Girard, one Saturday ordered all his employees to come work the next day to his wharf and help unload the newly arrived ship. One young man replied quietly: “Sir, I can’t work on Sundays.” “You know our rules?” “Yes, I know, but you know I am a Christian and my faith forbids working on Sundays.” “Well, step up to the desk and the cashier will settle with you.” The boss fired him. For three weeks the young man could find no work, but one day a banker came to Girard to ask if he could recommend a man for cashier in a new bank. The discharged young man was at once named as a suitable person. Although Girard had dismissed the man, he recognized his sterling character and commitment to his beliefs and convictions.
Beloved, such unwavering and stout-hearteness of this young man should be adopted in our Christian life.
Create in us a clean heart. O God and put a new and a right spirit within us. Restore to us the joy of loving and following you to the end. Amen.
_FR GERALD MUOKA._