THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2022)
1 Kings 19:16-21
Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
Galatians 5:1, 13-18
We are now fully into the Ordinary time of the Church’s liturgical year. There will be few interruptions (the Assumption, and Christ the King) before we flow into a new liturgical year that begins with Advent. “Ordinary” might cause us to think of it as less important, but, not bound by a common theme, it is during the Ordinary time that we get to walk with Jesus and listen to the ‘ordinary,’ yet prophetic, teaching that captivated the disciples and made them stick around, even through the crucifixion.
It is important to note that just before the beginning of today’s gospel, Jesus shares His first Passion prediction in Luke’s gospel, telling His disciples quite boldly that the “Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” It’s a wonder anyone followed Jesus when He was “determined to journey to Jerusalem” – it’s gonna be a great trip! In spite of an ominous future, they decide to follow Jesus, and they quickly encounter resistance in a Samaritan town (not a surprise). The Samaritans won’t welcome Jesus, and the disciples wish to repay their insult by “calling down fire to consume them.” This was clearly not what Jesus had in mind, and it is not likely they had the power to do that even if they wanted to (lucky there were no AK15s in Jesus’ day). The disciples’ desire earned them a “rebuke” from Jesus, and they continued their journey to Jerusalem.
Along the way, others come to Jesus asking what it would take to follow Him. Jesus points to a series of challenges facing a follower of Jesus – there will be no place you can call home; family obligations (burying the dead) rank second to “proclaiming the kingdom of God,” and, once “you have put your hand to the plow,” there is no looking back to what you had, there are no regrets for your former way of life. It is not unlike what Elijah was trying to teach Elisha after his calling, although Elijah allowed him time to go home, kiss Mommy and Daddy, and throw a feast for the neighbors.
In any case, the Sundays in Ordinary time are going to teach us that following Jesus is never always easy. It is not enough to be captivated by Jesus’ unique personality, if we are not going to follow Him with our whole heart and soul, follow Him through thick and thin, follow Him to the threshold of persecution, follow Him without looking back and longing for an easier life. If Jesus is to be our true Master then we must allow Him to guide our thoughts, our decisions, our day-to-day activities, rooting out all that is not loving. The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes it clear when it states “the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.”
Indeed, we live in a time when there is a great deal of “biting and devouring” going on. Nations are at war, and streets are littered with the bodies of men and women who just wanted to live their lives in peace. We are numb to the devouring of lives not only on the streets of our largest cities, but in small towns like Uvalde, Buffalo, Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Orlando. Our country’s adoration of guns makes “biting” easier, and the smallest of offenses are soothed by homicide. Our minds are so clouded by untruths spoken over and over again that large portions of the country are willing to do battle over that which is false. We need teachers like Jesus, who speaks the truth at great cost to Himself and whose only goal is to get people to be more loving, even if that doesn’t get Him ‘re-elected.’ And most importantly, we need genuine followers of Jesus, who do not count the cost of following Jesus, and who are willing to preach Jesus’ kingdom of peace, and love, and compassion, and harmony.
Jesus counted on men and women following Him, He counted on men and women to continue the redemption of this fragile world for He knew He would physically leave it. Let us be followers of Jesus, not just on Sundays but every day. Let us keep our sights fixed on the kingdom inaugurated by Jesus, and may how we live our lives bring our troubled world one or two steps closer to the vision Jesus had, and shared with us.