Homily – June 30, 2019

In our first reading from the Book of Kings we can see in Elisha’s slaughter of his oxen and using his wooden plow for firewood was his way of burning his bridges, of never going back to his former way of living and setting to follow Elijah in his ministry as a prophet to Israel.

In the gospel Jesus put an either or before the three men who wanted to follow. They wanted to take care of unfinished family matters first. They’d catch up with him later on. But Jesus had urgency about him; for him there was neither holding back nor turning back. One time he said, ‘one who sets his hand on the plow and looks back is not fit of the kingdom of God.’

Many good people today find it difficult to make a commitment. They’ve replaced ‘forever’ with let’s wait and see. When it comes to relationships, people can be quite comfortable with the notion of friends with benefits. Commitment can be too demanding. We do not easily make commitments, still less easily do we keep them. This is true of any time and nation. And yet it is particularly true of us. These days, it is difficult for a person to keep a promise fifty hours, much less fifty years. In years past there were plenty of marriage breakdowns but few marriage break ups. Wives were trapped; they had nowhere to go, so they stayed.

As one writer wrote, ‘There’s a loss of heart for almost everything such as for fidelity in relationships, as less and less people find within themselves the resiliency needed to live out the tensions that long-term commitment inevitably brings; Hence, more and more, we have less heart to put up with the strains and tensions of family, church, neighborhood, community, and country. Fidelity is never an easy journey. Yet we are surrounded by examples to promises made and promises kept. We celebrate with husbands and wives who celebrate 25 or 50 or 60 years of marriage. We celebrate with teachers who retire after years of teaching in our schools. Last week at a Passionist community in Jamaica, New York I celebrated with two classmates our 60 anniversary of ordination and others celebrated 50 and 25 years.

Jesus wanted from his followers that same commitment he had to always do the will of his Father, that why Luke tells us that Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, Jesus was determined to go where he would confront the religious authorities for their allowing his father’s house to become a market place instead of the house of prayer it was meant to be. Jesus’ cleansing the temple was the last straw. The religious authorities made the decision, he had to go.

We can ask how we follow Christ in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives. Some follow Christ in answering the invitation to the priesthood or religious or single life. Most follow Christ by being faithful to their marriage vows, being faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Most follow Christ by being source of life and love to one another and their children. We all follow Christ when stand for the worth and dignity of all people regardless of their faith, their race, their life styles. We follow Christ when we support social justice issues such as a living wage or adequate housing. We follow Christ when stand against bigotry and racism and discrimination.

We follow Christ when on this Canada weekend we give thanks for living in this country of immigrants where all are welcomed and we ask God for the grace we need to be faithful followers of His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord and giver of life and love.