Jesus Invites Us to Let Go and Follow Him

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. Jim homily

5 minute read


1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21; Ps. 16; Gal. 5:1, 13-18; Lk. 9:51-62

(Audio recorded live, 26 June 2022)

“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” By this point in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus has resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem. In other words, he made the firm decision to go to the place where he will “suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed…” (Lk. 9:22). Jesus knew this would be a one-way journey. That is why he gives his disciples several predictions of his coming Passion. Along the way, Jesus encounters many would-be followers, but each have their own excuses to fully embracing discipleship. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk. 9:23-24). The would-be followers are too attached to their way of life to leave it behind, so Jesus challenges them, saying, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” The life of discipleship is not just passively following, or merely saying, ‘I will follow you,’ but rather, the life of discipleship is of letting go of a worldly way of life and embracing the way of the cross. The cross is not just the symbol of our salvation; the cross is the symbol of our crossing over from worldliness to godliness, from death to life. Yet, many would rather choose death over life. The violent reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling is evidence of how many would rather choose death over life. But, as St. Paul reminds us, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And to embrace life and defend the innocent is just one way to fulfill the law.

Our readings today are all about moving past old ways and embracing God. By now, it should be evident to us all that the world is going through a massive change. We see it with inflation, supply chain issues, war. Some call it a ‘Great Reset,’ others call it, a “New World Order,” still others call it a “Great Awakening.” Notwithstanding the many agendas at work at the various levels—they may connive all they want—the question we ought to ask ourselves is: Where do I stand amid all this turmoil? St. Paul warns the Galatians, “But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” Are we consumed by these things? Are we falling into anger or envy or jealousy or greed or any of the other deadly sins because of the conflicting ideologies of our day? Is that what Jesus is calling us to?

Jesus says, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” In other words, Jesus does not belong to this world any more than we do as the baptized. Then, why are we so consumed with the world and all its machinations? Granted, we are in the world, but we do not have to be of it. Jesus said, “But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” If there is any world order that matters, it has to be God’s. And the victories we gain in the world ought not be used as weapons against others, rather, we ought to give glory to God as His order is made manifest. This is the work of the disciple.

Elisha was given a great honor to be Elijah’s disciple. Elijah was the prophet of the Lord. But, Elisha was following another crowd. The Scriptures tell us he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. When the Bible uses numbers, we ought to pay attention. What does the number twelve signify? Twelve tribes of Israel come to mind. And these twelve tribes had fallen into idolatry. The oxen is a symbol of that idolatry. Many will remember the worship of the Golden Calf during the Exodus. This was the god of the Egyptians, a false god, yet this form of worship snaked its way back into the people by way of the surrounding pagan nations. Elijah himself contended with 400 prophets of Baal, and after proving their god to be false, he had them beheaded for teaching false doctrines to the people. Elisha’s slaughtering of the oxen, then, might be a foreshadowing of his future role as a prophet of the Lord: He will root out the idolatry from the twelve tribes and bring people back to God.

What about us? Are we not called to the same? To leave the attachments of this world behind and to deepen our relationship with God? If Jesus desires we go and proclaim the kingdom of God, how are we carrying out that command in our life? Are we acting as his disciples or are we someone else’s slave? Only we can discern this for ourselves, but we must know that Jesus calls us to pick up our crosses daily and follow him.

So, if we have been caught up with the noisiness of the world, let us seek to overpower that noise by proclaiming the kingdom of God. Jesus says, “At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here” (Matt. 12:42). That something is Christ, and he is far greater than anything we could ask for or imagine. Let us follow him.

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