13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“When God Calls.”
The readings of today show us some episodes of ‘vocations’ that took place during difficult times.
The first reading describes how Elisha readily and generously responded to the call of Elijah. It was the period that Ahab and Jezebel were persecuting the believers.
The second reading tells that to follow Christ is a free choice. The disciple is not bound to any law except the law of love.
The Gospel describes Christian life as a journey done in the following of Christ. The goal of the Master is not the triumph, but the sacrifice of self in Jerusalem. Along the way he meets people who either ask or are invited to join the group of his disciples.
The interest of Jesus is not to have a large number of followers, all he does and wishes, is to present explicitly and clearly what the person accepting his proposal is expected to do.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21.
King Ahab had married a foreign princess, whose great beauty was equalled by her treachery. She had introduced Israel to the ‘cult of her gods’. The worshippers of YHWH had been persecuted and Elijah himself was forced to run away. Today’s first reading is set in this difficult religious context.
The beginning of the reading gives us the ending of Elijah’s encounter with God on Mount Horeb. Elijah was disappointed and discouraged. He felt that his mission had been a failure. But then God came to him in a tiny, whispering sound and reassured him. His work would influence the life of Israel for decades to come. He would be instrumental in the anointing of two new kings, who would carry out God’s will. And there would be another prophet to succeed him. Elijah is now old and tired, he needs somebody to take his place and God chooses Elisha, son of Shaphat, a rich landowner, as his successor. The last promise on God’s part is the first sentence of our Sunday reading.
One day while Elisha is at plough in his fields, Elijah approaches him. Elijah takes off his cloak and throws it over Elisha, without saying a word, and keeps going on his way without even turning around to see the reaction of Elisha. Why does he act like this? At that time the cloak was considered an integral part of the person wearing it and it was common opinion that the force and extraordinary powers of its owner were concentrated in it. Elisha will in fact do extraordinary deeds using the cloak of Elijah, prodigies which were similar to those done by his master. How does Elisha respond to the call of the prophet inviting him to become his follower? He runs after him and asks permission to go and address his parents. A similar incident of delay for family obligations take place in the Gospel reading which Jesus forbids. Elijah grants him permission saying: “Go, but come back!”
Once at home Elisha slaughters the oxen, burns the implements of his old profession, and on this fire roasts the meat, sharing it with all those present. This gesture is very significant. It means that he is giving up everything: he is abandoning for good his life of a rich farmer and he is embracing a new profession: to be a prophet in the following of Elijah. Elisha will develop into a prophet as great as his mentor, Elijah. What can we learn from this fact? The call of Elisha represents every type of vocation: the Christian vocation, in the first place, and then the call to every baptized person to perform a ministry or beneficial tasks within his or her community.
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11.
The Psalm is a song of confidence in God by a Levite, a member of the tribe in Israel who were responsible for Israel’s worship. Levites possessed no land of their own. God alone was their ‘portion and cup’. Elisha could make this prayer after his call. Peter saw in God’s care for the psalmist in sickness a prophecy of the Resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:32).
Galatians 5:1, 13-18.
The second reading celebrates the freedom of the Christian from sin and from the obligations of the Jewish law, which Christ won through his death. However, it is still possible for us to fall back into the slavery of sin.
Does it mean that to be free that we can do what we like? Freedom is not a license to allow the ‘flesh’, or the self, to be our guide in life, rather than the ‘love of neighbour which sums up the whole law’. Some still imagine God as a severe and demanding sovereign who imposes his laws on his subjects and woe to those who do not keep them. Whoever believes in this type of God can never be free. The Bible tells us that our relationship with God is not one of servant-master, but one with the Father to his child whose only law and norm is love.
This is the kind of freedom Paul speaks of: a freedom dictated by love. Paul is quick to remind the Galatians that freedom to love carries its own responsibilities. One who is free to love is not free to do just anything. One who experiences the freedom to love will not want to do anything else.
The journey to Jerusalem is not only a physical journey. It is a spiritual journey. In fact, it is Jesus’ journey to heaven that has begun.
Jerusalem is the City of God, the heart of the Jewish religion because of the Temple, which is the symbol of the presence of God among his people. The promise of God to save his people has to be fulfilled in Jerusalem although Jesus knows that Jerusalem always refuses the prophets and kills them. Jesus knows that he has to go there.
Capernaum to Jerusalem is some 140km in a straight line. To move from the northern part of the country to the south, you had to pass through the region of Samaria. Jesus is at the border between Galilee and Samaria and the Samaritan people refuse him passage through their territory. Jesus has to go down to the Jordan Valley and make a detour of some 10 to 15 kilometres. The disciples get so angry at the Samaritan’s refusal that they wish God would destroy the whole place. Jesus is not the type of prophet who will use violence to make himself accepted.
By respecting the decision of the Samaritans shows that he respects the freedom of everybody. Like the disciples, Christians can at times be very intolerant and despise people of other churches or religions. This is not in the spirit of Jesus.
Luke stresses that following Jesus is not going to be easy. Two people want to follow Jesus on their own initiative, but are warned that there are no material privileges to be expected. The followers of Jesus must put God’s Kingdom first before all else, even before the most revered family obligations. When the listener replies, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father,” Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
The ‘dead’ can be interpreted as ‘dead in faith’. Some of us are not living our lives in the present, we are thinking about the past or looking forward to the future. Often we carry baggage and regrets from our past, which prevents us from focusing on our lives in the present. Similarly, “Whoever puts his hand on the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the Kingdom of God”. Living in the future will have the same effect.
As Africans we are all deeply attached to our extended families. As followers of Jesus we must put God’s Kingdom and its justice first and before any family demands or commitments. Following Jesus can mean some painful and difficult choices and sacrifices that we need to make.
The ‘Way of Jesus’ is the ‘Way of the Christian’. Luke paints a picture of Christians who are loyal to their roots. Where Jesus ended his earthly journey is where his disciples begin theirs. If we follow Jesus, remembering all what he taught in the ‘Way’ to Jerusalem we will be able to travel along our own road of faith in the present.
Each one of us has been called by God, more than once. We are called to our human existence, to our Catholic faith, to the circumstances of our life such as work, marriage, parish and personal interests. Some of us are called to carry the cross of ill health. Some of us are called to help others in the bearing of their crosses. All of this involves God’s doing. All of this constitutes God’s approach to us. Priests are not the only ones to have a vocation, we as laity have a whole spectrum of vocations from God, which we need to fulfill.
We all respond differently to God’s calls because each of us is different. Sometimes it takes some of us a long time to respond to God’s invitation, say, to faith. Sometimes it takes a while to understand what God wants of us. One day God will approach us so clearly and forcefully that the only response that makes any sense is an ‘immediate and unequivocal yes’. The important thing for us is that we be attentive to the possibility of God reaching out to us and that we answer as obediently as we can.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus sets his face resolutely towards Jerusalem and heaven. There comes a time for us too for firm resolution, to ‘burn the plough’, to make a decision for God and stick to it and turn our faces resolutely towards the ‘New Jerusalem”.
Let us be more focused on the present, so that we can be fully alive and better able to respond to God’s invitation today.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … King Ahab and Jezebel persecuted the worshippers of YHWH who wanted the Israelites to worship the Canaanite and Phoenician deity called Baal. Do we discriminate against those who do not share our beliefs? Do we assume that there are no truths in their faith? We need to share with each other the similarities of our beliefs, which promote love, peace, humility and charity.
Mon. … We may not experience the ‘gesture of having a cloak thrown over us’, but we are all called by God more than once to a whole spectrum of vocations. God gives each one of us a vocation so that we may serve as a member of God’s family on our journey of salvation.
Tues. … Elisha abandons the ‘good life’ and takes on the vocation God has called him to. His gesture of burning the implements of his old profession is symbolic of him giving up his old life and embracing his new profession/vocation. The call of Elisha represents God’s call to every baptized person to a Christian vocation and to perform a ministry of service within the community.
Wed. … Paul speaks of a ‘freedom’ dictated by love and not by law. Our relationship with God is not one of a servant-master, but one with the Father and his child, whose only law is love. He reminds the Galatians and us that freedom to love has its own responsibilities. If we truly love and live by the Spirit, we cannot live a life of self-interest.
Thurs. … Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem in our Year C liturgy has started. God’s promise to save his people has to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. Let us face resolutely towards ‘Jerusalem’ where we were redeemed, ‘burn our ploughs’ and make a firm resolution to follow our Lord in our spiritual journey of faith.
Frid. … The ‘Way’ of Jesus is the way of the Christian. As followers of Jesus we must put God’s Kingdom and its justice first and before any alternative demands and commitments from the world, even to those of family. This can be a painful choice and sacrifice as we are deeply attached to our extended families and are aware of our family responsibilities. Are we ‘dead in faith’ or is our love for Jesus our Saviour strong enough that we may make the right choice?
Sat. … Where Jesus ended his earthly journey towards heaven is where we need to begin ours. If we follow Jesus remembering all what he taught us we will be able to travel our own road of faith in the present. Let us become focused on our faith in the present and be alert so that we will be ready to respond to God’s call at any given moment. Let us pray: “Speak Lord your humble but loving servant is listening, I want to do your will”.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, let us today reflect on the many times that You have called us and we have not heard Your faint voice as we were distracted by the many other loud voices of the world. We pray Lord that we may become more alert and willing to the promptings of Your Spirit to fulfil the many vocations and tasks of love in our community. We pray Lord that Your will may become ours.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.