Praise the Lord God for the beautiful readings that we have just heard from the Holy Scriptures. They richly fed us with spiritual knowledge and understanding of true discipleship.
During the First Reading, we heard the Word of God that has its origin from the First Book of Kings that is found in the Old Testament. We heard that the Lord commissioned Elijah to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat, as the prophet to succeed him. [1 Kgs. 19:16]
In obedience to the Lord, Elijah set out to find Elisha. When Elijah found Elisha, he was ploughing the twelfth yoke of oxen. As such there were eleven pairs of oxen that were harnessed ahead of him. [1 Kgs. 19:19] From this large number of oxen, we can conclude that Elisha came from a fairly rich family.
Passing by Elisha, Elijah threw his mantle over him. [1 Kgs. 19:19] While this appears to be a strange thing to do, in those days, it meant two things.
First of all, because the mantle represents the personality and rights of its owner, [Ruth 3:9] its casting over Elisha meant that Elisha now belonged to Elijah. Secondly, because the hair-shirt mantle was part of the official dress [2 Kgs. 1:8; Zech. 13:4] of the prophets, to cast it over another person meant a formal investing with the authority that comes from being initiated in the membership of prophets.
From this action, Elisha perceived that God was calling him through Elijah to become a prophet. Leaving the oxen, Elisha ran after Elijah, asked permission to say goodbye to his parents, and accepted God's calling to become a prophet. To this Elijah answered, "Go back again; for what have I done to you?" [1 Kgs. 19:20]
While this response of Elijah appears to say that he had done nothing to Elisha, the words hold a spiritual truth. As a servant of the Lord God, it was not Elijah who was calling and anointing Elisha, but rather, the almighty God Himself through Elijah.
What followed was most interesting. As a public sign of renouncing his previous life, Elisha offered a sacrificial meal on the spot. He slaughtered the yoke of oxen and used his farming equipment to make a fire on which he boiled their flesh. Then he shared the meat with his neighbours. [1 Kgs. 19:21; 1 Sam. 6:14; 2 Sam. 24:22- 3] Having done all this, Elisha followed Elijah.
From this example, we can see true discipleship. Elisha did not hesitate to answer God's call. Through the action of Elijah, Elisha believed that God was calling him and he immediately gave his "yes." His wholehearted obedience meant disposing of all the riches that he possessed.
Through faith and the Sacrament of Baptism, we Catholic who have become members of the Body of Christ, have also become servants and slaves of Jesus. As Elisha accepted to live a holy life by submitting himself to the Divine Will of God without hesitation, we Catholics are also called to be holy by standing firm and not submitting ourselves to the yoke of slavery. For Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery.
As true disciples of the Lord Jesus who have been freed from the slavery of sin, we have been called to become slaves to one another [Gal. 5:13] in Christ. As slaves of Christ, to return to the desires of worldly flesh, pleasures, fame and wealth is to renounce the call of our "yes" to the Lord God.
Bound by the spiritual law of Christ, our commandment is, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." [Gal. 5:14] Through the whole law, "there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him." [Rom. 10:12] If we love this one but we do not love that one, we are not of Christ. If we limit our love to those of a certain gender, age or ethnic background, we are not of Christ.
We have been called to live by the spirit, [Gal. 5:16] the spirit of adoption [Gal. 4:5] that we have received through Christ. "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." [Rom. 8:14]
"What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit." [Jn. 3:6] We having been born of the Spirit are spirit "and what the spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent us from doing what we want, what is righteous." [Gal. 5:17]
Being born again in Christ, we have received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit Who inclines our new hearts towards all righteousness, we have a living hope of completing our journey on earth. Through the sanctifying fire of the Holy Spirit, we have a living hope of eternal joy and peace in the Kingdom of God.
During today's Gospel Reading, we heard that Jesus was rejected by the Samaritans. The Jews and the Samaritans did not see eye-to-eye together and as such, they were not the type to associate with one another. The Samaritans were originally Gentile people who had descended from foreigners who had settled in Israel after the deportation of the Israelites in 721 B.C. [2 Kgs 17; Ezra 4:1-3; Neh. 4:1-9]
Knowing that His ministry was approaching its end, Jesus set His eyes on Jerusalem, [Lk. 9:51] where He had to go to be rejected and face death as it was written in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Because Jesus set His eyes on Jerusalem, the Samaritans did not receive Him. [Lk. 9:53] Making a distinction between the Jews and the Samaritans, they did not love their neighbours as themselves. They had not learned the meaning of true discipleship.
When James and John, the disciples of Jesus, saw how the Samaritans had hardened their hearts, they asked Jesus for permission to command fire to come down from Heaven and to consume them. [Lk. 9:54] Jesus turned and rebuked them. [Lk. 9:55] For the approach of Jesus has never been one of using force. It has been, "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." [Mt. 5:39]
Because James and John showed little patience towards the Samaritans, being ready to command fire to come down from Heaven, [Lk. 9:54] Jesus called them the "sons of thunder." [See Mk. 3:17]
As Jesus was going along the road, someone came to Him and said that he would follow Jesus wherever He went. [Lk. 9:57] To him, Jesus said, "'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." [Lk. 9:58] From this response, we learn two things. First of all, from the words, "foxes have holes," which is symbolic of "hiding," Jesus was saying that He does not trick anyone into following Him. Secondly, by stating that foxes and birds have a resting place, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head, Jesus was indicating that in true discipleship, He expects total dedication. "No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." [Mt. 6:24]
Then Jesus told one person to follow Him. The person replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." [Lk. 9:59] To this, Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." [Lk. 9:60]
Through these words, Jesus was saying, "Let those who are spiritually dead bury those who are physically dead. My message is one of life." In His response, Jesus did not intend to be taken literally. Rather, He wanted to stir the thoughts of those who were present. Jesus was fully aware of the respect that the children had towards their parents, especially when it concerned burying one's parents. This filial piety was deep rooted within Judaism. [Gen. 49:28-50:3; Ex. 13:19; Tob. 4:3, 6:15]
To another who said that He would follow Jesus after saying farewell to those at his home, Jesus said, "No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." [Lk. 9:61-2] In other words, in true discipleship, ploughing demands more than what was demanded of Elisha. [1 kgs. 19:19-21] To plough for the Kingdom of God, it demands sacrifices. If one takes the time to look back, the work of God shall suffer.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is today's message to us from God. In true discipleship, there is no turning back. There is no turning back to the worldly ways. As slaves of Christ, we are expected to continuously move forward by growing in our spiritual lives through the grace of God the Father and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
This week, let us consider this truth according to our callings, be it the religious life, the matrimonial life or the single life. Are we spiritually growing in our callings? Are we being loyal to our Master? Are we being true disciples? And if some find that there is much to be desired in their lives, may they take this opportunity to change their hearts while the grace of God is at work in them this week.