Homily, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Following God’s Call: On being a disciple Of Christ

1 Kings 19:16,19-21
Psalm 15:1-2,5,7-11
Galatians 5:1,13-18
Luke 9:51-62

It’s not a must to answer a call no matter who is calling ; God or man. But every decision to answer or not answer goes with responsibilities. But, people respond differently to God’s call depending on the level of freedom they operate; in the flesh or in the spirit.

Moreover, this call concerns all disciples of Christ, both minsters in the Church and the people they minister to because all were called by God differently for the same aim.

So, today we are presented with four individuals who were called to follow and do the work of God, and the disciples of Jesus who were sent to do some God’s work (Luke 9: 52-55).

The disciples thought that possessing charism and gifts means doing whatever they want with it because they can but they were rebuked by Jesus. Your gifts from God has a purpose.

In the first reading 1 Kings 19:16,19-21, we are presented with Elisha whom God called through Elijah. But something is striking here, that is, when Elisha gave excuses to go back and say good bye to his parents, Elijah said, “Return if you want , what have I done to stop?” With this Elisha, instead of going back for the goodbyes, left everything and followed Elijah. Remember that Elisha excercised his freedom but something influenced it. Yet Elisha was not forced by Elijah.

In the Gospel Luke 9:51-62, we are presented with three responses regarding three different persons akin to the call of Elisha. These calls and responses have something to tell us with regards to our own call by God. Yes, we are all called by God.

The first person in Luke 9:57 wanted to follow but couldn’t because he learnt that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. So, he left the call to be a disciple because he doesn’t want to be poor. His aim was to become rich.

The second person Luke 9:59 was called to be a disciple, but he wanted first to bury his father. But Jesus was vehement in his call and said, “let the dead bury the dead.” Is it now wrong to bury one’s father? No, there was something more to this; Jesus was saying, “that will no longer be your work, it’s meant for others, but you, face your work and your lane: proclaiming the kingdom of God. The dead, that is those who are spiritually dead should concern themselves with deadly things that are against the spirit.

The Third person Luke 9: 61 wanted to follow the call but first to say goodbyes to his family. Jesus’ response was shocking and for some, inhuman and too mean: “whoever puts his hand on the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.” Is it now wrong to say goodbye to one’s family? In fact, it’s humanly fitting. So, is Jesus becoming inhuman? No, Jesus was here passing a message: if you prefer your family whenever, above me, you will not make it into God’s kingdom. That is, sometimes your spiritual failure comes from whenever you do evil because of family affiliations. Here, you understand it properly when Jesus says in Luke 14:26 that if you come to me without hating your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and yourself, you cannot be my disciple. If you must respond be faithful, you must put God above any negative things that come from the family.

In all these, St. Paul( Galatians 5:1,13-18
) is warning us that one who must answer God’s call very well must operate in the freedom of the spirit and not in the freedom of the flesh. Because, there’s a difference between just answering God’s call and answering it faithfully and very well.

If you must answer God’s call very well, you must live in the freedom of the spirit against freedom of the flesh. Those who answer God’s call in the freedom of the flesh always operate on self-love. Self love listens to no one,and is disobedient and very proud, arrogant. They have no spiritual director, they are God to themselves.

But for those who must answer God’s call very well,they must operate in the freedom of the spirit, walking in the spirit and not give way to the desires of the flesh.

But the problem is that we always think that desires of the flesh is just about sexual sins alone; desires of the flesh also includes disobedeience, pride, etc. So, living in the spirit entails that:

A person who must answer God’s call very well must consider Elijah’s and Jesus’ response to the would be disciples. In summary, the person must not answer the call from a material point of view, that is , because of what one will get: money, fame, power of influence, etc akin to the first person who couldn’t follow Jesus because he has no where to lay his head; Jesus has nothing.

The person must like Elisha submit with immediate obedience and total commitment, without distractions either from family and friends.(I kings 19:21). One must love God above family and friends.

Also, such a person must operate on love. One must not repay evil with evil , and show off power and influence like the disciples of Jesus(Luke 6: 54-55) who wanted to call down fire from heaven because they could but Jesus rebuked them. In essence, in the freedom of the spirit, one must be guided utmostly by love in answering God’s call. This is the love in the service of others.

Finally,one must have a spiritual guide in human person otherwise, one shall begin to make mistakes. Elijah guided and influenced Elisha, Jesus guided his disciples who who nearly made mistake by acting in vengeance, by calling down fire, and Jesus equally guided the would be disciples in descerning the proper way to answer God’s call. Therefore, to operate in the freedom of the spirit which enables effective response to God’s call, one must have a spiritual guidian or director, whomever you are.

The disciples of Jesus who went to prepare a place for Jesus in Samaria( Luke 9: 52-55) were all called by Jesus but attitude of James and John shows that one who was called by Jesus can sometimes misbehave by loosing focus because of want of fame,and power etc. This is against freedom of the spirit because it lacks love.

Today, let’s ask ourselves whether we are operating in the freedom of the flesh or in the freedom of the spirit. Let’s check whether as disciples of Jesus whether we are still on the track or outside the track thinking that we are still in. Let’s go back to God in total surrender, commitment and refocus if wealth, fame, influence is dragging us away from our call and into the freedom of the flesh,into self love.

Fr. Henry Charles Umelechi.

Truth series.

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