Today in our Scripture readings we are going to hear how Jesus calls us to give up everything to become one his followers. Who in their right minds would give up everything to do that? I’m thinking the answer is supposed to be us
1 Kings 19,16b, 19-21
Galatians 5.1, 13-18
Luke 9, 51-62
Let’s recap here. Elijah was supposed to anoint Elisha who was then to follow Elijah to preach about God. But first, Elisha had to tie up some loose ends, get rid of his livelihood, and say goodbye to all he had known. We know Elisha was firm in his commitment to follow Elijah because not only did he give up his livelihood, he destroyed it. He killed those oxen. He couldn’t go back and unkill them if he decided that following this guy wasn’t working. He had to make this new leg of his path work, because there was no old way to go back to. Pretty drastic, wouldn’t you say?
Fast forward a few millennia and we hear Jesus picks up where Elijah left off. Three people offered to accompany Jesus, to live as Jesus and Jesus lets them know what they are in for. Jesus tells the first guy that there isn’t the stability of routine in his way of life. Animals have a stability, a routine, and return to their homes at night. Jesus says, I don’t. I don’t know what my days or nights will bring. You still want to come along with me?
Another guy comes up to Jesus and says,” Hey Jesus! I’ll come with you”. When he heard the demands made, the guy said, “Uh, well, let me go home, I have to bury my dad.” I see this exchange a little differently than Scripture scholars who see it as leaving behind what society expects you to do. I see it as a plain old-fashioned excuse to get out of something. The guy, paling at the demands Jesus outlines comes up with “ Yeah, that’s it, I have to bury my dad.” Jesus saw through this and said, ”Let the dead bury their dead,” in essence, no excuses.
Then the third guy said, “Hey, Jesus. I’ll come with you,” and Jesus told him, “Leave the comfort of your family and come along. Oh, and don’t look back, you will be in this for the long haul.” Those are some pretty tough conditions. Leave your family, your way of life, your parents and family to follow Jesus.
No one could fault you for saying “Yeah, let me get back to you Jesus.”
Except. Think with me here.
Remember back when you and your spouse fell in love and couldn’t wait to make a life together. Or maybe you left home to go to college, or left home to set up housekeeping by yourself or start a new job in another city. Whatever your story, you left the comfort of your home, didn’t you? You left behind your former life, your bed, your mom doing stuff for you. Your parents paying the mortgage and utility bills, you eating out of the fridge for free. You left your family, your way of life, your parents to go on the next leg of your journey.
That’s really what Jesus is asking of us. Leave what we have known to chance the unknown. Why does it sound so unattractive when he says it?
The gospel writers forgot to write down what happens on the other side of Jesus’s request. That what may seem like a burden isn’t a burden when you are with someone you love. Love makes all of that possible.
It wasn’t a burden for Steve and I to get married and have a life together, it wasn’t a burden for you to go to college or start that new job. It was exciting. We were creating the life for ourselves that our parents or mentors had nurtured. We didn’t mourn “Giving up” the creature comforts of home because we knew, deep down, and- maybe not so deep down- we knew this is what we were called to do.
Now, let’s be real. Was their homesickness? Probably. Did we sometimes look back pine for the days when dinner suddenly appeared on the table, or when clean underwear and socks magically appeared in our dresser drawers? Of course! But still, this was the path! Love made all of the changes bearable, and even life giving, huh?
Here is what St. Paul in our second reading tells us about following Jesus.
“Christ has called us to freedom. Stand firm in your freedom. The whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
There is that word “love” again. Saint Paul figured that out. He had to be knocked off a horse to get it, but he did get it!
I have heard many of your stories about how you came to Holy Family. You’ve heard mine. Many of us had to leave what was familiar behind, leave what we had known, even if it was uncomfortable, it was at least the devil we knew. But look what has come out of that leap of faith. Look what has come out of leaving all the stuff behind. Look what we have found! Five years ago, who would have thought we would look forward to coming to Mass? Who would have thought we would have the freedom to be who God meant us to be, praying the way that truly fits who we have become.
Today, right here, right now Jesus reminds us, Bring who you have become, bring who you are and join me. Live in the spirit of freedom, freedom from all that is not of God. Join me, join with your brothers and sisters all of us, in praising God, enjoying creation, enjoying summer and let’s see together where the Spirit will lead us. That’s not a burden at all is it?
Homily shared on Saturday, 30 June 2019, by Rev. Mary Keldermans.