Total Commitment In Serving The Lord
Readings: (1st: I Kg 19, 16-21; Ps: 15, 1-2. 5. 7-11; 2nd: Gal 5, 1.13-18 Gos: Lk 9, 51-62)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843
On this 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church encourages us to: “Acclaim Jesus Christ who is more to us than the entire world, and whose Spirit has made us resolve to follow him wherever he leads us.” In the readings of today, one would at a close glance find themes like: Calling, Following Christ, Commitment, etcetera. All of these point to one central theme – Total Commitment in Serving the Lord. Eleven year old Ofeke disturbed his uncle (a priest) so much about going to spend his next long vacation in his parish. Knowing the solitary nature of the parish house and his busy schedule, his uncle tried to dissuade him but to no avail. Eventually, his uncle caved in to his demand and asked his mother to bring him. Ofeke arrived on Friday, spent the weekend, and by Monday morning he has packed his bag ready to end his vacation. He went to his uncle and asked him to take him home immediately. His uncle knew his problem. Ofeke could not cope with the solitude of the Parish house in spite of the food and DSTV channels at his beck and call. He was asked to wait till the weekend for his mother to come and pick him. Reluctantly, he agreed and waited for Friday to come. Very early on Friday morning Ofeke picked up his bag and told his uncle: “I am going home whether Mummy comes or not!” Most Christians are like Ofeke, quick to follow but without much commitment.
In the first reading, God called Elisha through Elijah. Although Elisha was busy with his business he had to severe every tie in order to follow his new master Elijah. He committed his entire life to his call. The kissing of his father, the slaughtering of his oxen, and bidding of farewell to his men, are all symbolic gestures to prove that he has made up his mind to follow his master. Most importantly, the slaughtering of his oxen bears a great meaning. He “killed everything” that could constitute a distraction to serving God. Perhaps he knew that if he had bequeathed them to, or asked someone to take care of them for him, sometime in future he might either be tempted to go and pay them a brief visit or return to their service. To eschew this temptation, he slaughtered them, offered them as sacrifice to God, and as food to his men. He did this to show them that he was totally committed to his new found love. Is it not baffling today that Christians are not committed to Christ in spite of our Baptismal, Religious and even Marital vows to follow Christ? This is because, our Oxen still lives. We must “slaughter” them as a sign of total commitment to Jesus Christ or, our attention will continue to be divided because: “You cannot serve God and Marmon at the same time” (Lk 16, 13).
In the second reading Paul reminds us of the freedom we have in Christ. This freedom like the one Elisha got from his service to his oxen is for a purpose. This freedom enables us to be free from other commitments that enslave us in order to be totally committed to Christ. Therefore, it is freedom not to be wasted on frivolities of life. That is what Paul describes as “self indulgence.” It is not freedom to become busy-bodies or a mediocre. Instead, it is freedom to follow and serve the Lord closely. Jean Jacques Rousseau in one of his philosophical thesis writes: “Man is free, but everywhere in chains.” Therefore ours is a freedom that also binds us to Christ and Charity towards others. This is why Paul says: “I am in chains because of Christ” (Phil 1, 13). Yes, even though he was saved from the perils of the world, he remained “a slave” for a worthy course. In short, ours is a freedom that helps us commit our entire life’s endeavour to Christ and his course: “But once I found Christ, all those things that I might count as profit, I reckon as loss” (Phil 3, 7-8). Yes, we have freedom but it is for the sake of serving Christ.
The gospel brings us to the zenith of this total commitment to the Lord. In it, Christ himself saw the lopsided nature of the commitment of the young men wishing to follow him. Having addressed their individual situations and complains, He makes a categorical statement: “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Of course, we know the consequences of looking back. It turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt (Gen 19, 26). What Christ means and wants here is total commitment! This is not neglecting the fact that occasionally we might go off the track. However, when we do, we must as a matter of urgency return to the Lord. “Looking back” is therefore a dangerous venture in our Christian journey. So this Sunday, the church calls us to be totally committed to Christ and to her, the visible sign of Christ on earth. Like Elisha, we must “slaughter” or “kill” all the forces, obstacles and vices like: selfishness, materialism, greed, pride, laziness, immorality, cheating, backbiting, gossiping avarice, nepotism, tribalism, etcetera, that prevent us from serving the Lord well. This is the only way we can cry out and say: “O Lord, you are my portion and cup.” If we are totally committed to the Lord, He will definitely show us the part of life and true freedom in this world and beyond.
Peace be with you all!