When God Calls, Follow — No Excuses
Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings. Note: More guides are available under “Resources.”
Sunday, June 27, is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II). Tuesday, June 29, is the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul (not a holy day of obligation).
Pope Benedict XVI will say two Masses for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul so that he can honor both saints.
On Monday, June 28, the Holy Father will celebrate the vigil Mass and first vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls at 6pm.
On Tuesday, June 29, he will celebrate 9:30am Mass for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at St. Peter’s Basilica. At that Mass, he will bestow the pallium on newly appointed metropolitan archbishops.
The pallium is a band of white wool decorated with six black crosses, worn over the chasuble. It represents the authority of a metropolitan archbishop and unity with the Holy Father. The wool used in weaving the palliums comes from baby lambs that are blessed by the Pope each year on the Jan. 21 feast of St. Agnes.
1 Kings 19:16-21; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62
At first glance, today’s first reading from the Old Testament and today’s Gospel reading seem opposed to each other.
In the reading from Kings, Elijah chooses Elisha to be a kind of “coadjutor” prophet. Elisha will accompany him with the understanding that he’ll succeed him. Elijah calls him as he is plowing, and Elisha leaves his plow to follow Elijah. But he says, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah lets him go.
In the Gospel, when Jesus calls disciples who want to take care of family business first, he doesn’t let them go.
“Lord, let me go first and bury my father,” says one.
The reply: “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
Another says, “First let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus replies with what could be a reference to Elisha: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Each of these requests seems as compelling as “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye.” Why doesn’t Jesus allow his followers the courtesy the prophet did?
The answer lies in what Elisha did next — and in the difference between what people say and what they mean.
Elisha said he wanted to kiss his parents goodbye, but his actions show what he really intended to do: He intended to destroy his plow and oxen, and use them to provide food for his family. In other words, he wanted to give all he had to the poor and follow God.
In the Gospel, one gets the sense in the would-be disciples’ replies to Jesus that they are simply making excuses. And Jesus’ advice to them is essentially to do what Elisha did: He asks one to leave his family behind and preach God’s will. Elisha preached God’s will by his actions and left his family behind. Jesus tells another that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back isn’t worthy. Elisha did that and more.
What does all this mean for us? We can easily give the same reply to Jesus that these disciples did: I’ll pray more. When the kids are older. I’ll do more for the parish. When soccer season is over.
The message of today’s Gospel is to treat our family as a means for Christian action rather than an excuse for Christian inaction. Is God asking you to pray more? Wake up early and offer a 10-minute morning meditation for your family. And pray with your family — though be sure to make it family-friendly rather than difficult and off-putting. You want to do more for the parish? Find a way to involve the kids so that they learn to do more for the parish, too.
These stories, after all, are about vocations. When God calls, he wants us to listen and follow. Jesus has given us each a vocation. The point of today’s readings is simple: Put that vocation first, not last, in your list of priorities.
Tom and April Hoopes
write from Atchison, Kansas.