13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
A priest was invited by a couple to have a dinner with them together with their three children. While they were having a dinner, the eldest child announced that he wanted to be a priest. All of them were happy. Then the priest asked the boy why he wanted to be a priest. He replied: “Because every time a priest visits a house, the food is always good and delicious.”
There were occasions in the past especially after having attended a touching seminar like, retreats and recollections or a very touching event that happened in our lives, we declare then: “I will follow you, Lord.” But after several months we say: “Wait a minute, Lord, Why me? I’m very busy, Lord.” But, upon hearing this gospel, can we renew now the commitment that we have made before? Or have we initially followed the Lord and then abandoned Him for our personal ambitions and pleasures that this world is offering?
In our gospel today, the story that I told you has something similar with each other. Before these three persons said they will follow Him, they had already witnessed and heard what Jesus had done – curing the sick, Jesus gave power to expel demons and cure the sick when He sent His disciples to a mission, raising the dead to life and many others. So they said: “This is different. I will follow Him because everybody applauds Him, everybody appreciates Him, and everybody says that He is a good man, everybody says that he is handsome, so I will follow Him.”
But Jesus said – if you want to follow me, follow without reservation. I want your total commitment. I want sacrifice.
So to the man who excitedly volunteers to follow Him, Jesus is saying – think twice. Jesus and His disciples don’t have home to be called as their own. They move from place to place and if he will follow Him, he will be one of them – no security of home and other basic needs.
To the other who says he will follow after attending to the burial of his father, Jesus says: “Let the dead bury their dead.” It is because this burial connotes a postponement of service to Jesus until such time that his old father dies. Obligation to parents is laudable and must be appreciated but this comes secondary to proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
Each of us may rationalize that we are too young to be serious about Christ. We may say: “I must take care first of my career, my job, my family and my dreams. When I will become old and have nothing worthwhile to do, then I will follow and serve Christ.” It does happen that we spend the best years of our life serving our own ambitions and only later, when we are cranky and feeble that we want to be of service to the Lord. It does also happen that we never have the chance again to seize the opportunity of following Christ. We become incapacitated, lethargic and die early, the time that we want to serve Him. Instead of serving Him, we, in turn is served by Him.
The third man asks Jesus to say good-bye first to His family, Jesus told him not to look back.
Jesus speaks in hyperbolic tone to emphasize this hard way of discipleship which is a total dedication and commitment to the will of God. But we don’t interpret His words literally. We can still continue to attend to our filial and family obligations because if not, that’s a mortal sin. But following God’s calling is more important.
Throughout our lives, we often have a thought that a time will come when we will finally be free, free of the authority that keeps us from doing what we want to do. When we were little, we viewed each stage of school as a step to greater freedom. For example, we thought that once we got to high school, we would be free to do all the things that Middle School wouldn’t let us do. But then we found out that high school demanded so much work that our freedom was limited. We thought that when we got our driver’s license, we would be free to come and go as we want. Then we were introduced to the concept of paying for gas, insurance, a car; and, yikes, we had to get a job. So much for that freedom. Similar things happened when we got to college, when we started our lives independent of our parents. Those who married took on a deep responsibility towards their spouses, a responsibility that limited their actions in favor of caring for another. Selfless love. And then children came, and real responsibility hit. You married may have thought that life would begin after the kids moved out and the dog died, but it didn’t. You still had to work hard. Those who retired may have thought that they would finally be free to do whatever they wanted, but they aren’t. They have responsibilities to others. They are increasingly limited by their own health or the health of their spouse. There is always some force, something over us that limits our freedom.
We are wrong if we define freedom as the ability to do whatever we want without having to bend to any sort of authority. All societies demand authority, whether that is the society of the family, where the good of the marriage determines the actions of the spouses, where the parents’ guide, or civil society where respect for others and their property determines what we can and cannot do, or the society of God, where our reverence for the Lord motivates our actions.
The Christian defines freedom in a different way. For the Christian, freedom is the ability to be the unique person that God created each of us to be. We all know this and experience this. We are at our happiest when we are at our best. Yes, we have responsibilities, and, yes, we have authority over us, but this does not limit our freedom. Our freedom comes from being our best selves.
So my dear friends, where there is sacrifice, there is love. Where there is love, the Lord is always there. If we decide to follow the Lord, decide now and not tomorrow because tomorrow is still far away. Follow the Lord and find freedom. Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN