Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thank you Deacon Jim, for this beautiful reflection and commentary!

Readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1 :
1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21

The LORD said to Elijah:
“You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah,
as prophet to succeed you.”

Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat,
as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen;
he was following the twelfth.
Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.
Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said,
“Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,
and I will follow you.”
Elijah answered, “Go back!
Have I done anything to you?”
Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them;
he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh,
and gave it to his people to eat.
Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.
Commentary on
1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21

Elijah’s time is coming to an end and God instructs him to select his successor, Elisha. In response to God’s instruction, Elijah travels to a region near Damascus and finds his successor Elisha plowing a field using the symbolic 12 Oxen (for the twelve tribes of Israel). The footnote does a good job of describing the action: “Elijah's act of throwing his mantle over the shoulders of Elisha expressed the divine call to share the prophetic mission. Elisha's prompt response through destruction of his plow and the oxen is an example of total obedience and detachment from his former manner of living in order to promote the glory of God.”

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (cf. 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the Lord, “My Lord are you.
O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.”
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

I bless the Lord who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the Lord ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Commentary on
Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Psalm 16 is the song quoted in the
Acts 2:14ff. A song of thanksgiving that has become prophetic, it speaks clearly of the resurrection accomplished now in Christ. (“Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption”.)

Reading II:
Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For 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.

I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Commentary on
Gal 5:1, 13-18

St. Paul begins addressing the concept of Christian freedom. This freedom he expresses is freedom from the Law of Moses and the requirement for Gentiles to participate in all of the laws of the Jews as part of the Christian faith. He warns them not to take this as permission to engage in activities that violate the law but rather to focus on the spiritual freedom this gives. He goes on to tell them to be guided by the great commandmentlove your neighbor as your self” and in this way they will achieve the Christian ideal.

Luke 9:51-62

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Commentary on
Lk 9:51-62

This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, set shortly after the Transfiguration event, begins the narrative of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. The announcement - “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled” provides language almost identical to describing Elijah’s assumption in
2 Kings 2:9-11. He travels through a Samarian rejoin in which he was not welcome because of his Jewish identity (see also John 4:9). His rejection by the Samaritans is a forerunner to the rejection he will receive when he reaches his destination. James and John (the “Sons of Thunder”) want to destroy the place but again Jesus, prefiguring the persecution he will face in Jerusalem does not dispute his rejection.

The journey continues with the Gospel giving us three sayings of Jesus about the requirement to place the values of Christian discipleship above all other requirements of life. Proclaiming the Kingdom of God must come before even family obligations.

In the first, “Foxes have dens…” Jesus does not deceive anyone – he lives in poverty, dedicated to his mission.

The second; “Let the dead bury their dead” is a play on words; let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead; Jesus message is the message of life. This saying was never intended to be taken literally as filial piety is deeply ingrained in Jewish life.

The third saying; “No one who…looks to what was left behind” Jesus demands more than Elisha (see
1 Kings 19:19-21). “Plowing for the Kingdom demands sacrifice.”[iv]

When we think about Jesus’ mission and how he must have felt at the point in time where the Gospel passage from St. Luke places him. “…the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled”; that means his time on earth is growing short and while he has significant notoriety around Galilee and many know of him in Jerusalem, he was sent to bring salvation to the whole world. He was given the mission of bringing God’s message to all the people of the world and he has barely scratched the surface. Even as he and his friends travel to Jerusalem for the last time, he encounters people who reject him. We can almost feel his despair, even as his to zealous disciples offer to use their newly discovered faith to “call down fire from heaven to consume them”.

So much had to be left to these simple followers of his; even with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen them he knows how difficult it will be. It is this mood that strikes us from the Gospel (and from the story of Elijah selecting his successor – he too was ending his service on earth). God’s plan, though, moves forward. Jesus final journey and his great passion at the end of it will be enough. Already the Word of God impacts the world and even with Jesus’ apparent defeat on the cross, the will of God to reveal himself has moved beyond where those who would wish to stop it could.

In all the years since the events in Galilee and Jerusalem the Gospel of Jesus has been proclaimed by people of faith. It has been taken around the world and there are few alive now who do not know the name of Jesus. His great task in not compete though. There is still much to do. The battle is waged against the forces of evil and they are persistent. Jesus passes his call on to us through the words of scripture. He asks us through his Apostle St. Paul to continue to live in the freedom of God’s spirit which informs us to love one another.

Today we pray that we heed that call and with the Holy Spirit as our constant ally we are able to do his work and transform the world though our great love. It is still an enormous task, but we have the Lord to help us.


[ii] The picture is “ Sorrowful Christ” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN
[iii] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[iv] See Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 44:97.

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