CACINA

Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 26)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on June 25, 2016

Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 26)

I want to start off today by noting that there is a subtle change taking place today which we will follow through for the next many weeks of Ordinary Time.  In the story Luke tells of Jesus, he structures his story in a way unique to the other Gospel writers.  We begin a brand new section of Luke’s Gospel today with the words: “Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke seems to be using the device of a journey which will end in Jerusalem, yet it takes the next ten chapters of his book to get Jesus there. But the journey’s end – Jerusalem – is always in the forefront of Jesus’ thought now and colors a lot of what will happen to him. 

However, it is not that he steadfastly sets his face to Jerusalem and races there. Along the way, he does take time to stop at friends, and eat meals with friends, and so on….but the journey to the cross in Jerusalem is how Luke  pushes along the narrative from now on. Jesus’ knowledge in Luke of what will happen in Jerusalem gives an underlying tone and inevitability to everything Jesus says and does. We will watch for this over the next number of weeks.

After this initial set up in the Gospel today,  in our readings we get little lessons on ‘making excuses’. Whenever we don’t want to do something or are not fully committed to something, most of us are experts at making excuses. Some excuses involve stretching the truth, others are outright lies. But the end result is that we put off doing something.

In both the first reading and the Gospel today we have young men making excuses for not doing something right away when asked to. In the first reading the prophet Elijah was asked by God to anoint another prophet to study under him and take his place. This would be the prophet Elisha.  At this point, Elisha was just a young farm boy out ploughing his fields. The act of throwing his mantle over the boy signified that he was being chosen to take on the prophet’s role. We use the expression today sometimes when we say someone took up the mantle of someone else. They followed in his footsteps or ways.

But Elisha just doesn’t set down his tools and follow Elijah. He excuses himself by saying that he has to kiss his parents goodbye and do some things in preparation for the journey. He kills the oxen which were pulling his plough, by roasting them on a fire made from his plough, and gives the food to the needy. Then he comes back, follows Elijah and becomes his servant – eventually becoming the prophet Elisha.

So this excuse was an honest excuse. He didn’t want to not let his parents know he was going, and he wanted to take care of any unfinished business he had before he left, so that he could start afresh.

There is a lot going on in the Gospel today but I want to focus first on the “excuse” section. When I mentioned at the start that Jesus’ movement to Jerusalem, his realization of his death to come and the need to complete his mission all color what some would think as a kind of ‘grouchy’ Jesus here, who demands a whole lot from those who want to follow him, and even more, his answers here seem curt and snippy. The excuses start with he second man. Jesus has asked the man to follow him. The man says, “First let me go and bury my father.” Now this is a dishonest excuse if not an actual lie. The man’s father has not died. If he had, the young man wouldn’t be there – he would be sitting shiva with the Father as was required. No, the young man wanted to go home and wait for his father to die, collect his inheritance, and then maybe follow Jesus. Jesus did not have time for that. “Let the dead bury the dead. Let those who are spiritually dead and still interested in the things of this world bury the dead, perhaps Jesus is saying.

The third young man offers the same excuse as Elisha did: “Let me say farewell to those at my home.” We saw that this was a good excuse and even laudable perhaps in the story of Elijah and Elisha, but Jesus is having none of it. Because his eyes are set on Jerusalem – set “like flint” the psalm might say, Jesus is accepting no excuses. The kingdom of God is inevitably pushing forward on Jesus’ agenda, and there is no stopping the train. There is no time now to look back!

A couple of points about the beginning of the Gospel today as well. Jesus sends the apostles to Samaria to prepare a place for him but the Samaritans, enemies of the Jews are not being very hospitable. Jesus wanted to bring the message of the kingdom to Samaria (as he tells the Apostles at his Ascension as well) but right now the Samaritans aren’t open to it.

In retribution, the Apostles want to use their new powers to destroy the enemy, but Jesus rebukes them for it. This may be what happens in the Old Testament regularly, but it is not the way of Jesus. His message is of love, not hate. Our political leaders could learn a lesson from this!

What can we do with these readings in our own lives this week? Let’s try to listen hard to the call of Jesus through the Spirit and not be quick to make excuses when possibilities arise. There are a lot of opportunities to help others, show our love for them and spread the kingdom, but we have to be open to them and not be making excuses all the time. Some excuses are valid, certainly, but others force a commitment from us that we are afraid of, or too comfortable with things the way they are. As Paul says today: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity of self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” We are busy, but if we are given the opportunity to do something for an hour a week, can’t we really find that time if we want to, and think less of our own needs and more of others.  Just a thought. But it is what the Good news prompts us to think about today.  God bless.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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