13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jesus frees us to be our best self

June 26, 2022

(First homily before Supreme Court Decision)

Have you heard the expression: “You said a mouthful?”  It refers to someone who speaks an obvious and worthwhile truth – like the Scripture we have heard today.  So, let’s review each passage.

  1.  First reading: 1 Kings 19

The prophets Elijah and Elisha.  Neither wanted God to choose them to be a spokesperson for God.  For a simple reason that the people of Israel would take out revenge upon them for upsetting the traditional applecart: God’s word, God’s truth over human selfishness and corruption.

It is also interesting to note that a prophet looks for their successor who may never have thought of being a spokesperson for God.  I’ll bet you a million dollars that you have never thought you – all of us – are invited to be a prophet.  It says so in our Baptism liturgy – Immediately after the moment of our Baptism, the priest anoints with Holy Chrism and says “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”  The everlasting life that we share is not something in the future, but a “now” experience, sharing God’s life and presence by what we say and do now.  We have been given a great responsibility, and honored with a great gift and expectation… God’s expectation for our life is to be a prophet, one who lives and speaks God’s words in everyday life, and it requires that we just be the best person that we can be and keep the presence of God within us as someone to share with others.  Always, we are more than we think we are.  God’s hope is that we don’t keep God’s presence locked up inside ourselves, but that we reveal God plainly for all to see and feel.

  1. Second reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-18

St. Paul reminds that Jesus Christ has set us free, “to serve one another through love.”  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus says to apply the same selfish diligence that we spend on ourselves on others.  Yes, we can live a good, prosperous life just as long as we share our goodness and prosperity with others.  We do not have to be defensive, divisive, discriminatory.  That is not the way that God practices his sharing of life or His love.  “Live by the Spirit,” St. Paul writes.  Jesus invites us to practice more than rules and customs for self-preservation.  Remember that Jesus called us: “The Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth.”  We know what that means, and also, what it calls us to work toward being.

There is a war going on between the spirit and flesh, St. Paul says, between the great selfless aspiration of Jesus and the selfish materialism that captivates our energies.  St. Paul advocates that we let the Spirit guide us and not our myopic selfishness.  For St. Paul, selfishness is a personal slavery.

There is a kind of slavery that is literal, like to what black people or conquered people were subjected.  There is also personal slavery where we can be trapped in unwholesome health-related addictions.  There is also addiction to false ideas, practices of self-depreciation, which bind us up in nervousness, depression, and lack of self-value.  Jesus wants us to separate ourselves from all slavery, all slavery!

  1.  Gospel reading: Luke 9:51-62

Whenever a Gospel passage tells us that Jesus has determined “to journey to Jerusalem,” it tells us that Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die, to put an end to all slavery of any kind.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is a gentle soul and does not need anyone to defend his pride or punch someone else in the nose for him.  “Love and hope are stronger than brute force.” (Mary McGlone, writer for the National Catholic Reporter)

What does it take to be a follower of Jesus?  There is no noun or name for a follower of Jesus.  The word “disciples” simply means students.  The verb “follow” occurs 80 times in the New Testament, but it is never rendered as a noun.  That means that there is no dogma, rule or rite that makes one a follower.

Following is an activity, something that we are doing.  It is a kind of “doing” that keeps going, but where we do not achieve a result necessarily, and then rest or end the doing of what Jesus is expecting of us.

The “Jesus doing” is open-ended and never completed.  Jesus put it this way: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Although Jesus was the Son of God and a very human being, he was detached from material things, from power to manipulate.  His love and presence were an energy that freed each person that he met to be their best self.

Part of Jesus’ “doing” was to make clear that His Father always took the first place in his life.  That is our real challenge, not to place God in the last place of who and what is important.  We hear a number of excuses in today’s gospel – family relationships and responsibilities.  We can set our career goals, our ability to make money, to travel at will, to accumulate houses, cars, jewelry, etc. – all that is second place.

Who is fit for the Kingdom of God?  The person who looks forward, the person who asks God to walk in their life.  Jesus is about doing, about following, about listening, about living more deeply and less superficially.  That is why the early followers of Jesus called what Jesus started as “the Way,” the way to go, the way to live, the way to understand the journey of life, the way to reach our destiny, the way to be happy, the way to become fulfilled, the way to become fit for the Kingdom of God.

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