26 June 2016: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21 Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11 Gal 5:1, 13-18 Lk 9:51-62


Road trip: discipleship’s constant choice

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask us to reflect on the continuing choice of discipleship.

The first reading, from the book of Kings, is the story of the prophet Elijah’s call of Elisha. When Elijah throws his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders, Elijah signals that Elisha has become his servant. Elisha’s acceptance and response–sacrificing his oxen–signifies a radical change from his former life. The Lectionary editors chose this reading for its parallels to Jesus’ call of disciples in today’s gospel.

The second reading continues Paul’s letter to the ekklesiais (believing communities) in Galatia. Paul elaborates on what believers are called to do and to be: believers fulfill the law by love of neighbor (Gal 5:14-15), and by walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-26), as illustrated by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. For Paul, faith–an individual’s recognition of Jesus’ saving act–results in a believer’s choice to love God and the neighbor.

Luke’s gospel opens with Jesus “setting his face resolutely to Jerusalem.” He ends his Galilean ministry and begins his “journey to Jerusalem,” the place where prophets die. Luke uses the word ὁδός (hoh-DOS), translated as “the journey,” “the road,” or “the way” as a metaphor or byword for discipleship. Jesus gives many teachings about discipleship while he is “on the way” to Jerusalem. In today’s reading, Jesus addresses discipleship’s severity and unconditional nature. Proclaiming the kingdom takes precedence over everything else, including family duties and obligations. Jesus invites many to journey with him, but they are full of excuses:

  • I will follow wherever you go: This would-be disciple casually commits to Jesus’ mission without understanding the personal cost (“wherever you go”). Jesus tells him discipleship means giving up the security of home and family (“nowhere to rest his head”).
  • Let me bury my father: This would-be disciple wants to delay joining Jesus’ mission (“after my parents are dead”). Jesus tells him that the kingdom is now, and that those called to the kingdom (“Follow me!”) cannot be distracted by others who are not part of the kingdom (“let the spiritually dead worry about worldly things”).
  • Let me say goodbye to my family: Like Elisha in the first reading, this world-be disciple wavers in his discipleship (“let me say goodbye”). Jesus tells him he must commit to the kingdom (“set his hand to the plow”). Elisha accepts Elijah’s invitation; Jesus’ would-be disciple chooses the familiar over the kingdom.

Each of us in the believing community has heard Jesus’ say: “Follow me!” Each of us must choose every day to follow Jesus. The journey is difficult but joyful. Do I really understand what Jesus asks? Have I become distracted? Am I looking back? Am I walking the road to Jerusalem today?

—Terence Sherlock


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