Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 1, 2007 Year:C
1 Kgs. 19:16b, 19-21; Gal. 5:1, 13-18; Lk. 9:51-62

Call to true discipleship 

First Reading...
“The Lord spoke to the prophet Elijah and said, ‘You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat, as prophet in your place.’

So Elijah set out from there, and found Elisha, who was ploughing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth.

Elijah passed by Elisha and threw his mantle over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’

Then Elijah said to him, ‘Go back again; for what have I done to you?’ Elisha returned from following Elijah, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then Elisha set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.” [1 Kgs. 19:16, 19-21] 

Second Reading...
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence but through love become slaves to one another.

For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Live by the spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the spirit, and what the spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not subject to the law.” [Gal. 5:1, 13-18] 

Gospel Reading...
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.

And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for Jesus; but the Samaritans did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem.

When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

To another Jesus said, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” [Lk. 9:51-62]
 

“Oh, tomorrow is Sunday, who will go for the first mass? And who goes for the second service? Well, I cannot go, because I have to prepare food, fill water and clean the house.” This is the conversation in a Mira Road resident family. 

In another family a conversation goes this way: “If you go well on time you will get a seat in our crowded Church; if you plan and go early, you could get a seat right below a fan. That will certainly keep you comfortable for the whole hour.” 

Another interesting conversation: “If you want to come, come with me, I am going by car. But cars are not allowed during 8.15 am mass. You will have to park it outside. That’s bad. These priests and pastoral helpers do not understand us. We work during the whole week and we cannot even be comfortable on a Sunday. Well, let’s go in the evening then, and after the service is over, we can go to the nearby Razzaz theatre for a nice new movie.” 

The Gospel passage of this Sunday marks the end of the Galilean ministry of Jesus and leads to the beginning of the long journey to Jerusalem and the cross. It was a long journey and frequently interrupted. 

The first act is the question, "What manner of man is this that heals diseases, terrifies demons, raises the dead, and bosses around the winds and the rain?" In the transition, Peter answers it: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus responds, "Yes, and that means the cross." The second act drives home with increasing, inescapable, and sobering clarity the implications of that response. And at the very beginning of that journey there are some important lessons for us. This passage illustrates two truths about the nature of commitment to Christ. 

THE AFFLICTIONS OF HIS SERVANTS
Rejection is a major theme of Luke's Gospel because it was a frequent experience of our Lord. It is interesting to note a pattern: each major phase of Jesus' ministry begins with rejection. One of the toughest to take must have been at Nazareth, his home town, at the beginning of the Galilean phase (4:28-29). His own relatives and childhood friends respond to his preaching by saying, "Who does this young man think he is?" Now he gets a very different reception in Samaria (9:53) than when he visited the Woman at the Well. They liked him when he said you didn't have to worship in Jerusalem but rather in spirit and in truth. But now that their local prejudice is no longer apparently being fed by his message, they turn hostile again pretty quickly. The mere mention of Jerusalem is apparently enough to set them off. Had they listened more carefully, they would have realized that this emphasis was not exactly complimentary to their hated rivals! This was a pattern initial enthusiasm that turns to rejection that Jesus had to get used to. No wonder John would later summarize his whole ministry by saying, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11). 

Jesus had human feelings like we do but he did not sin. He could not have been unaffected by these experiences. Surely they are part of the "many things" he had said he was going to suffer in Luke 9:22. His friends, the disciples, his best friends, the Three, his own family did not understand him. It began at least as early as his conversation with the experts of the law in the Temple. Can you hear the surprise in his twelve year old voice at the fact that his parents did not know he had to be about his Father's business? They just look back at him, clueless. Can you hear the disappointment and frustration when he says to Philip, "Have I been so long time with you and yet you do not know me?" Can you hear his agony as he looks at the city of Jerusalem and says, "How often I longed to gather you as a hen does her chicks, and you would not"? So when he enumerates the sufferings he would undergo for our sins, surely rejection is among them, and not the least significant. 

How does this apply to us as the Lord's disciples? First we should realize that it is OK to desire understanding and acceptance and to hurt when it is not received. Our Lord did! But then we must also realize that he steadfastly preferred the pain of that rejection to compromise of his principles or his mission. Are we willing to follow him in that? We must if we love him and love lost sinners. The biggest reason why opportunities to witness for Christ are missed is not our inability to articulate the Gospel clearly or handle objections to it effectively (though some of us surely need work there), nor is it our failure to care (though none of us cares enough). If we are to be honest we must admit that the biggest reason is simple fear of rejection. We are not willing to risk that pain, for it is surely among the greatest that we ever face. He was despised and rejected by men, and it hurt him more than we will ever be able to understand. But he also heard his Father say, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." He has had a mighty host of followers who were gladly ready to give their lives for him, they loved him so much. Some day every knee will bow and every mouth will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. He could never have had that joy if he had not been willing to face that pain. And neither can we. 

How then should we deal with rejection as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ? Expect it. Those who rejected him will reject us as well, for the same reasons. Accept it. The joy that is set before you, acceptance by God, hearing the Father say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," is not worthy to be compared with the sufferings we undergo now. And, most importantly, respond to it as our Lord did, not with rejection in turn, but with love. James and John reacted to rejection in the natural human way: they were hurt and they wanted to strike back. But Jesus rebuked them. "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (9:55-6). Can I love those who reject me? Can you? No. But Christ has already done it. And Christ in us can do it still. Let us ask him to do so, for the opportunity is certainly going to be presented. 

Helpful Event:
On a British Airways flight from Johannesburg, a middle-aged, well-off white South African Lady had found herself sitting next to a black man. She called the cabin crew attendant over to complain about her seating. “What seems to be the problem Madam?” asked the attendant.

“Can’t you see?” she said. “You’ve sat me next to a kaffir. I can’t possibly sit next to this disgusting human. Find me another seat!” “Please calm down Madam.” the stewardess replied. “The flight is very full today, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do- I’ll go and check to see if we have any seats available in club or first class.” The woman cocks a snooty look at the outraged black man beside her (not to mention at many of the surrounding passengers also).

A few minutes later the stewardess returns with the good news, which she delivers to the lady, who cannot help but look at the people around her with a smug and self satisfied grin: “Madam, unfortunately, as I suspected, economy is full. I’ve spoken to the cabin services director, and club is also full. However, we do have one seat in first class”.

Before the lady has a chance to answer, the stewardess continues...” It is most extraordinary to make this kind of upgrade, however, and I have had to get special permission from the captain. But, given the circumstances, the captain felt that it was outrageous that someone be forced to sit next to such an obnoxious person.” With which, she turned to the black man sitting next to her, and said: “So if you’d like to get your things, sir, I have your seat ready for you in first class up at the front...” At which point, apparently the surrounding passengers stood and gave a standing ovation while the black guy walks up to first class in the front of the plane.

I don't know which is worse: being rejected or having people make a big deal about wanting to follow you when they don't have the foggiest idea what you are really all about. Jesus had to deal with that in this passage too, and one of those men elicits from him an expression of a second form of affliction: poverty. The Son of man had no where to lay his head, worse off even than the foxes or the birds (9:57-58). Possessions are not wrong in themselves, and the Gospel is not negative about them but following the Lord means they are not and cannot be your first priority. Following Jesus means being willing to accept rejection; it also means being willing to accept poverty and deprivation if that is what it takes to get his work done. 

THE URGENCY OF HIS SERVICE (vs. 59-62)
There were a couple of other people who wanted to follow Jesus but only when it was convenient, only when they got around to it. He does not seem to have been terribly interested in or impressed by such followers. With our popularity collapsing around us, we would probably have been desperate for anybody who wanted to sign up; but Jesus was not. People are needlessly troubled by the first example. How could Christ be so harsh, so heartless, as to forbid this man from attending his own father's funeral? But the father was in all probability not dead. This man's statement was an idiom which could well have meant, "My father is getting up in years. As soon as he dies, I will join up with your disciples." Jesus' reply then means, "Let the [spiritually?] dead bury their dead. You've got more urgent business with the living! Are you serious or not?" The other fellow was apparently not serious either. Once he went back to "say goodbye," there was every likelihood that his family was going to try to talk him out of it. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified! He did not have time to mess around with people who wanted to talk big about following him (and presumably get in line for some of the spoils of victory after the Kingdom came) but who were certainly not serious about making the sacrifices required. 

What about our situation today? Is there any urgency in our period of history? Well, do we believe that men and women are lost without Christ? Of about five billion people in the world, half of them have never even heard the name of Jesus, much less had the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel. How shall they hear without a preacher? Could you have accepted Christ or grown in him without any access to a Bible? Of 3,000 known languages on the planet, only a little more than half have any Scripture at all, and only about 10 % have the whole Bible. I know you've heard these kinds of statistics before, and you have probably learned to roll your eyes at them. That's part of the problem. 

Jesus makes two points here about the urgency of his work. First, it comes before everything else, even the highest human obligations (vs. 59-60). Second, it demands wholehearted, steadfast devotion (vs. 62). Interestingly, in this passage it is not the man who turns back who is unfit for the kingdom, but rather the man who merely looks back (like Lot's wife). What happens if you just look back when you are plowing? You plow a crooked row. Hmmm. Interesting description of a lot of Christian lives today! If you look back you are lost. Look ahead and you will win. Leave back what has happened and look ahead and you will get courage to face the realities. 

CONCLUSION
What then shall we say to these things? Understanding the urgency of discipleship should make us eager to embrace the afflictions. George Scott, a one-legged school teacher, once offered himself to go as a missionary to China. "With only one leg," the priest asked, "why do you think of going as a missionary?" Scott's response was classic: "I don't see those with two legs going!" Oh that we could see that spirit in the Lord's servants again! Here's the question: Is the Lord's work something you fit in after everything else in your life, or is it your highest priority? He set his face to go to Jerusalem for us, and we now know a bit about what that meant. Would you prayerfully consider where he would have you to go for him
 

Practical Suggestions:
Today I cannot live without my mobile, internet connection, my dish T.V.; cannot live without my laptop computer, cannot start on a journey without my digital camera; without my video camera; without my credit card; without my ATM card. Well, these have become so essential to me that I can live without my companions, but not without these modern gadgets. Oh, that’s right, but what about my following Christ? Well, Jesus, if it is your will, I will follow you, but you need to accept these gadgets, they will be also useful on our road to Salvation. Why can’t? Someone may enquire about us, may be willing to join us? SMS can guarantee that vocation promotion?
 

  Click here for other Sunday Homilies 

A New book from Fr. Rudy :
Short review of the book: This book is an out come of a serious exegetical study on the important words and texts from the writings of St John of the Cross. The study deals with a short life and writings of the mystic and then does a complete study on GOD, MAN and WAYS to EXPERIENCE GOD. The book is available at: St. Joseph Church, Near Holy Cross Convent School, Mira Road East, Thane Dt. Maharashtra State - 401 107, India. Books can be ordered through email: rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

The cost of the book is Rs. 125/- pp.xviii + 234, The Title of the Book is: THE DYNAMISM OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH - An Exegetical Study on St. John of the Cross, author: Dr. Rudolf V. D' Souza, OCD, MA. PhD.

Dear friend, my homilies will be posted on Thursdays and you can benefit them and if you need more resources, you could contact me on rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

Let us make this ministry fruitful one so that the Word of God becomes a source of joy for me and for you and help people become more aware of its riches. You are also welcome to share your feedback with me. Thanks and God bless. 

 

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