TRUE DISCIPLESHIP: A CALL TO FREEDOM FROM WORLDLY ATTACHMENTS
1st Reading: 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21; 2nd Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Gospel: Luke 9: 51-62
Our existence in this world is a Divine call. For none of us chose to come into this world on his or her own accord, rather God chose us and sent us into the world for different purposes. However, this call by God has implications, conditions, as well as consequences. It is a call to total commitment, self-abandonment, and freedom from slavery, which prevent us from actualizing our ultimate goal in life.
In the first reading, when Elijah called Elisha to follow him, he went and sacrificed all his oxen immediately, and used his farming implements as fuel to boil them and then bade farewell to his family. This immediate response shows his renunciation of his previous occupation or life for his new vocation as Elijah’s disciple. What a resolute decision and response!
In a similar way, Jesus Christ always chooses His disciples by Himself and not them choosing Him. He made this clear to His disciples, when He said: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Meanwhile, in today’s Gospel, a man approached Him and requested to follow Him wherever He goes. However, Christ’s response to him: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58) seemed to have rejected the man’s humble request. Not at all. Christ simply wanted him to know the implications of discipleship. For the scripture says: “My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes” (Sirach 2:1-2).
On the other hand, Jesus Christ called two other men to follow Him, but they started giving excuses. One said: “let me go and bury my father”, and the other said, “let me bid farewell to my family.” In his response, Christ told them to drop whatever other agenda they had, which enslave them and make them earthbound, and then follow Him to proclaim the Kingdom of God. That is exactly what His first disciples did when they were called; they left everything and followed Him immediately (Luke 5:11). For anyone who starts to plough and is looking back is not worthy of the Kingdom of God. This implies that, following Jesus Christ does not admit of any excuses or double standard life (sycophancy, deceit, hypocrisy, dubiety, cunning, insincerity, etc.).
Moreover, it is worthy of note that, when Jesus Christ calls people to follow Him, He wants them to leave all other relationships and attachments behind, and then cling to Him without any reservation like Elisha in the first reading. It is a call to total abandonment of self, and detachment from worldliness, which also requires resolute decisions, focus and absolute dedication. This detachment from earthly possessions and family enables the disciple to be free to serve God sincerely and wholeheartedly. For Christ made it categorically clear to His disciples, that a call to discipleship is a call to self-denial and total abandonment to the will of God (John 6:38; Mark 8:34).
By the virtue of our baptism, we have been set free from the dominion of darkness which enslaved us, and thus become sons and daughters of God, as well as, the disciples of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13-14). Just like the early disciples of Jesus, we did not choose Him, no, He chose us. In other words, we are Christians not because we wanted to be Christians, but only because Jesus made us so by His own deliberate choice. His reasons for choosing us are known to Him alone. So, we must follow Him completely with all our hearts. To place our very selves and all our possessions at His disposal, to do with us as He pleases.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that if we are to enjoy this freedom that Christ has won for us, we need to allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. For many of us have the desire to serve God, and to offer our lives to Him. But, at times, our attachment to sinful habits or attitudes, to possessions and relationships, hinders us from following Him more closely. That is why St. Paul urges us to work in the spirit so that we would not live double standard life or gratify the desires of the flesh: Adultery, fornication, masturbation, homosexuality, lesbianism, idolatry, envy, jealousy, unforgiveness, greed, etc., which tend to enslave us (Galatians 5:16).
Finally, our call to Christian life is a call or journey undertaken to follow Christ more closely and total dedication to God’s will. Also, not to live or act in a way that compromises our call to discipleship, or that contradicts our Christian faith. We also need to burn the yoke of slavery to sin and worldly things, and in its place take up the yoke of Christ to find true freedom and joy.
Although, answering this divine call may be cumbersome, or saturated with rejections, persecutions, hatred, conspiracies, etc., accruing from wicked people around us. However, instead of calling fire from heaven to consume them, like James and John in the today’s gospel, Christ asks us to ignore their shenanigans, and still show them genuine love. Our decisions to give up our inheritance or abandon our promising career trajectory in order to follow Christ, may sound preposterous. But, Jesus Christ promised us that; “everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
May the Power of the Holy Spirit guide you in making resolute decisions that will contribute to the promotion of the Kingdom of God, deliver you and your family from the forces of darkness and worldly attachments; and may you find joy in serving the LORD and loving Him above all things, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
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