George Whitfield was an English evangelist who lived in the 18th Century. He regularly conducted outdoor evangelisation campaigns during a period of revival called the “Great Awakening.” Thousands of people responded to his Gospel message. After one of his sermons, someone asked Whitfield how many people were converted. Whitfield replied: “We’ll know in five years.” In other words, its all very easy to say “Yes, Yes, Lord” but it’s the lived reality of our lives that will determine if we are genuine in our commitment.
At our baptism all of us made a decision to follow Christ, a decision that we recommit to each time we profess our faith. It is a decision that has the power to change our lives and the world that we live in, if we are ready to embrace the values, vision and the way of life that Jesus lived.
Both the first reading (1 Kings 19:16) and the Gospel (Luke 9:51-52), today highlight the far-reaching implications of responding to God’s call in our life. It is a call that asks for significant change in how we live and how we see the world.
In the reading from the book of Kings, the prophet Elijah is instructed by the Lord to anoint Elisha to be his successor. Having received the call, Elisha slaughters his Oxen and chops up the plough to use it as fuel to cook the meat. This dramatic gesture is meant to signifies that, for Elisha, there is no turning back. He knows that once he responds to this call of the Lord, his life will never be the same again. There is no going back.
Part of the call involves being prepared to leave our old ways behind in order to live a new life, a life that is shaped by our faith in Christ and the kingdom values that he preached. We see this in today’s gospel when Jesus tells the young man to leave everything behind and “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” It is a fairly radical request, but one that signifies the importance of the decision that discipleship involves.
By proclaiming the Kingdom of God, Jesus is announcing that God’s plan, God’s desire for the world is fundamentally different to the life now being lived by many. God’s plan, God’s desire, honours each individual for who they are, and measures their value and worth, not by the labels of culture and society, but by the fact that they are made in God’s own image.
As we show respect and love for one another, and work towards harmony and unity, rather than prolonging the social distinctions that deny the value and worth of each other, we change the world we live in and help bring about God’s reign, God’s kingdom, God’s plan for the world.
Take today’s gospel for example. The story relates how Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He and his disciples could either go through Samaria or take a longer, more difficult route east of the Jordan River. Jesus chose the shortcut through Samaria.
The fact that Jesus was heading to Jerusalem was a sign to the Samaritans that he was Jewish. This brings our all the historical and cultural prejudices and biases that have shaped the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans for generations – not just from the Samaritans who refused to honour Jesus as a prophet, but also from the disciples James and John who wanted to call down fire from Heaven to consume the lot.
Jesus uses this moment to teach the disciples about letting go, letting go of cultural bias, letting go of old hurts, letting go of labels, letting go of whatever might prevent us from choosing God’s way – sometimes that even means letting go of family – or at the very least the bias of our family’s way of doing things.
Following this incident with James and John, we hear about 3 encounters Jesus has with people who want to be disciples, followers of his way. Jesus makes it clear that following the way of the kingdom, following God’s way, is not going to be easy.
The disciple has to decide which has priority – loyalty to family, to culture, to the old ways, or loyalty to the Mission that Jesus is about – bringing about the Reign of God!
At first glance the message might seem very harsh – but we have to remember that Luke’s objective is to present the far-reaching requirements of discipleship. He doesn’t want any confusion, if we make the choice to follow Jesus, we have to follow him all the way!
Every day we are faced with situations where we have to make choices to be faithful followers of Christ – in our homes – which is often one of the most difficult places to do it – at our workplace, in our schools. As we make those choices, we have to ask ourselves the question “Is this what a follower of Christ would do?” Sometimes the choices won’t be easy and will require great sacrifices from us, looking for the good in the other, letting go of our biases, choosing to do the best and not only the good, loving when love is hard and difficult, but when we do these things, ultimately our lives will be the richer for it, and we will help to make the world we live in a better place.
So today, we pray for the grace to be faithful to our promises, the promises that we made at our baptism, and the promises that we repeat each time we profess our faith, promises that invites us to strive to bring about God’s kingdom in the here and now. Let us pray for the grace and courage that we need to be faithful to our commitment to the Lord.
Please consider praying a decade of the rosary on a daily basis for the evangelising Mission of the Church and the Pope’s intentions.
If you would like to make a monetary donation to support the work of the pontifical Mission Societies in South Africa, you can do so by using the donate button at the top of this page.
We have added a Prayer Section to our website. People who wish to request prayers may submit a confidential request on the website. People who wish to pray for the Mission of the Church will find an outline on the same page.