HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: Moments of Decision
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
It is beautiful to observe a creative ritual at some weddings where the groom and bride come to the wedding ceremony, each holding a candle. At the ceremony they are asked to use their two candles and light a single candle. Afterwards, they blow off their candles to leave the single one burning. This creative rite is symbolic to show that they are no longer two but one. What is more, it is a sign of a break with past life, and embracing a new life, and a permanent decision to remain one.
Similarly, Elijah called on Elisha to make a permanent decision. Elijah came upon Elisha, as he was ploughing the field with twelve yoke of oxen. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak on him. Elisha immediately got the message.
Throwing the cloak on Elisha meant that Elijah was passing over the mantle of authority upon him and calling him to take on a new responsibility to be a prophet. Elisha sought to go and say farewell to his father and mother. Without hesitation, Elisha accepted the new vocation by taking the yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and used the ploughing equipment to boil the flesh of the oxen and distributed it to the people to eat. Indeed, Elisha displayed a rare courage by not hesitating to break away from his past life and farming profession. He slaughtered the animals he used for farming and burnt the yoke of wood, which was his farming equipment. In doing so, he blocked the chances of reverting to farming in the near or distant future.
Like Elisha, Jesus demonstrated a dogged determination in making a resolute decision to accept the road of the cross. “When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” Even though Galilee was a more comfortable zone, Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem, a danger zone, where he would suffer grievously and die. There were several obstacles that were mounted to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem. These obstacles began even while he was an infant. First, there was an attempt to kill him by Herod soon after his birth (Matthew 2:13:16-18; Revelation 2:24). Second, before he set out for public ministry, Satan met him in the wilderness and attempted to make him be a sensational Gospel preacher by performing some cheap miracles instead of proclaiming the Good News of salvation (Matthew 4:1-11); third, one of his disciples made an attempt to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem. When Jesus spoke to his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected and killed, Peter took him aside to rebuke him and express his disapproval of the cross (Mark 8:31-32); More still, during his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as the hour of the cross was fast approaching, Jesus naturally felt the urge to reject the cross, but his spirit was resolute to take up the cross. He prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Despite all odds and oppositions, Jesus resolutely went to Jerusalem to take up the cross.
The road to Jerusalem is that which all Disciples of Christ must follow. We often wish to remain permanently in some comfort zones, but we are called to leave our comfort zones when we are entrusted with some responsibilities or tasks. Sometimes, the movement from our comfort zones to any area of discomfort depends on our free choice as in the case of Elisha and Jesus. We exercise this freedom by making responsible choices. Often we are confronted with the choice of either departing from our old ways of life or clinging to it.
The world is full of liberation movements and freedom fighters that use guns and bombs to fight for freedom. This is not the kind of freedom that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Galatians. The freedom that he proclaims is that which sets us free from the yoke of slavery to destructive habits and the freedom that enables us to serve one another through love; the freedom which the Apostle Paul proclaims is a life in the spirit that enables us to break free from the old, unredeemed, unrefined and raw self to embrace a new and transformed nature (Galatians 5:16-18).
We all long and wish to embrace a new and transformed life, but we are often caught in the traps of procrastination and hesitation when we are in a valley of decision. The Prophet Joel says, “Thousands and thousands are waiting in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). Jesus encountered some three people who demonstrated three practical facts about decision-making. The first person made a decision out of his free will to follow Jesus, but Jesus simply told him “Foxes have dens and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has no where to rest his head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus wanted him to be aware of the implication of his decision and to make him realize that discipleship is not a bed of roses.
Jesus personally invited the second person, saying, “Follow me.” This person replied: “Let me go first and bury my father. Jesus answered him, “Let the dead bury the dead.
But you go and proclaim the kingdom.” This is to say that the proclamation of the kingdom is an urgent duty that leaves no room for procrastination. Procrastination is another name for unnecessary delay. Procrastination kills time and self-motivation. It makes us delay that which we can do today to an unending tomorrow.
The third person decided to follow Jesus, but requested to go and say farewell to his family at home. Jesus responded: “No one who sets his hand on to the plough and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (cf. Luke 9:57-62). Jesus wanted this third person to understand that discipleship requires a firm decision for commitment and fidelity.
An English proverb says, time and tide wait for no one. When we are to make some hard and difficult decisions, we often say, “I have no time today,” or “Not now.” The scriptures gently reminds us, “Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).
In making lasting decisions we need to take time to pray. The Book of Proverbs advises: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). In our moments of confusion we could seek for wise counsel before making important decisions. We also need to put in efforts to make enough inquiries and seek for necessary information to help us make an ‘informed-decision.’ Lastly, when it is convenient we could carefully examine the different options available before making a wise choice or decision.
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