Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
27 June 2004
Scriptual Reference: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62

Abandonment to God Gives Freedom to the Soul

Sparky Anderson, the former manager of the Cincinnati Reds, once said, “I don’t dwell on the past. There’s no future in it.” This statement holds a lot of truth, yet is very hard to live by. In some ways it is very natural to hold on to the past—to have regrets, wishing, perhaps, that things could have been different, and how much better things would be now if they had been. We can also think of “dwelling in the past” as that thing or things that seem to keep us from moving forward in our spiritual journey. For instance, that one sin or temptation that keeps coming back to us. Sometimes it is simply hard to let go of the things we know. Dwelling on the past is a chain that keeps one from fully living in the present and moving ahead.

In our first reading today, Elijah is called upon by God to find Elisha and anoint him as his successor. He finds Elisha going about his daily chore, plowing the fields. Elisha is called forth by God to succeed Elijah, to be the voice crying out to the people of Israel. He is called forth to be a prophet. A calling that requires total abandonment to God. Elisha’s response is not unexpected. He accepts the calling, but with one condition. He, first, wants to go back home to say his goodbyes. But Elijah reminds Elisha that to be a true prophet of God, he must break free from all his past, and this includes his own family. Elisha cannot put conditions on his calling from God. Elisha understands this, which is why he goes back to slaughter the oxen and burn the plow. This act is one of freedom, for he has broken the chains of his past. He is now free to give of himself fully to God’s call of succeeding Elijah as the next prophet, for there is nothing to hold him back from answering God’s call. With these actions, Elisha abandons himself to God.

Abandoning one’s self to God requires complete loyalty.

Our gospel story speaks to us of this same need to abandon one’s self to God. We meet Jesus on his way toward Jerusalem to fulfill the will of his Father. On the way, he encounters three people. Each of whom wish to follow him, yet with some conditions. The first does not quite understand the hardships that come with following Christ. That it is not always an easy journey. The second and third person offer reasons as to why they are not quite ready. They hold onto things of the past. While the words of Jesus, in his response, may seem rather harsh—“let the dead bury their dead”—his point is quite clear: To follow me is to let go of things of the past and give yourself to me.

The call to follow Christ is one of self-abandonment. To dwell on things of the past keeps one from fully realizing the kingdom of God. Self-abandonment is no easy task. It is filled with many difficulties and hardships. Why do we hold onto those things of the past, things that keep us chained? Perhaps, because we find some security in it. The past is something that we know, and we are comfortable with things that we know. The future, however, is unknown. While we may have a general idea of what lies ahead, what we don’t really know is how the future will be played out and what will be asked of us. The unknown can cause some free or anxiety in the soul. So, we hold onto those things that give us comfort. Letting go is no easy task.

The response Jesus gives to those who wish to follow him is rather harsh indeed. Yet, he had to respond in this way. Jesus recognized the difficulty one can experience in the act of letting go. But he reminded these three, as he does to us this day, that to be true disciple of Christ, one must first be loyal to him. It is in this self surrender that the soul is freed.

Abandoning one’s self to God gives freedom to the soul.

This is the main point of St. Paul’s words today: “Brothers and sisters: for you were called for freedom…use it to serve one another through love.” It is this freedom that Christ came to give us and called us to. His death freed us from sin. His calling frees us to serve God and others, and in doing so frees us to love. Abandoning one’s self to God requires complete loyalty. Loyalty is found in the following of God’s commandments and in the giving of our selves in our daily duties and chores. God’s commandments, our daily duties and chores our not chains that keep us from living the way we want, or doing what we want when we want. His commandments are an open door that leads to his house—a house where love of God and others prevails. In his house all look to serve one another, and to freely give of themselves.

To be fully free is to love. To love is to serve. To serve is to give of our selves. To give of our selves is to abandon our selves to God. Abandonment requires loyalty.

Abandoning our selves to God, following his will requires on our part a deep loyalty to God. When we follow his commandments and keep his word, we need not worry about those things that keep us chained. We are his children, and God has a plan for each one of us. The will of God is found in the simplicity of our daily duties.

“I don’t dwell on the past. There is no future in it.” Our future belongs with God in heaven. Let us look to Christ, our Savior and follow him to the New Jerusalem. +

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