Sunday Scriptures

God Empowers Us to Go Forward in the Mission

by Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J.

“Follow Me.”

“I will follow You wherever You go.”

 

Today’s Scriptures are powerful reminders for our responses and behaviors in this “Ordinary Time.” They are anything but ordinary, and they are anything but easy to follow in the ordinary and in the less-than-ordinary events of our everyday lives.

Human nature is quite complex. Our personal stories and our communal history have shown evidence of tremendous strength and courage, of powerful compassion and self-giving, of incredible sacrifice and deprivation. We have shown an ability to conquer fears, reach goals, change directions, overcome the hardships of war, natural disasters, family tragedies, scandals and cruel injustices. We stand in awe and wonder how we did it. Human nature, our own and that which we share with each other, is capable of so much. It is capable of even so much more when we realize God is working in and through us.

However, because of this complexity, we also see ourselves withdraw, pull back, shrink from action, become paralyzed by the overshadowing fear of rejection. This instinctive fear of disregard, dismissal, shunning, hate and abandonment so often keeps us in a “holding pattern” for weeks, months, years or even a lifetime.

This we see in today’s Scriptures. There is no going back from the journey Jesus has begun with His disciples (you know that means you and me, as well), and there is no mistaking that the path to be followed is one of rejection.

We hear again, “I will follow You wherever You go.” It almost sounds like, “The sky’s the limit.” Patiently Jesus responds that there are not to be any conditions placed on true followership. He reminds them (us, too) again that their missionary tasks are critically important and the demands are rigorous, beyond any ordinary expectations, and that they would be rejected over and over. He also indicates His awareness that in their teachings, preachings, healings and ministering there would be eventual suffering and death – the seeming ultimate rejection. There also seem to be no excuses or ways around or over the path. We are called to give our all.

How do we nurture that other side of our complexity – that side which is stronger, braver and more self-giving, even in the midst of an awareness of a fear that could find us self-preserving, withdrawn and frightened?

How do we keep ourselves from hiding from God’s gaze and God from our gaze? How do we stay focused on the companionship of Christ with us on this road of life? How do we move on and not away when the teachings, preaching, healings, ministries are rejected?

How do we stay focused on the One who has called us, who has baptized us into the freedom of love and life and who goes before us always? How do we keep on believing and trusting?

Today’s first reading finds us with Elijah, who had fallen into that fear of rejection, which led to loneliness, isolation, a sense of failure, and who had cried, “I’ve had it!” to his God. God lifts him from his brooding and misfortunes and reminds him of his prophetic call and mission. God sends him to anoint another and to work with Elisha, who would succeed him. Elijah anoints and commissions Elisha, reminding him to “go forward” in the mission, not back. Elijah drew his power from God, and Elisha, in turn, was empowered. He, Elisha, let go of his former ways to follow Yahweh, God.

God blessed them both, and all believed them prophets who spoke for God.

St. Paul strongly insists that if we follow Christ, we need to be grounded in that freedom for love which instinctively finds us using our strength, courage, care and compassion for the most vulnerable sisters and brothers in the human family. He comforts us with the promise of the Spirit to help us overcome our weaker human tendencies to fear and excuses, and to empower us to be all we are called to be. This means acting out of love in all we say and do – without exception.

Gospel discipleship requires surrender to God’s plan and providence for our lives and for all of creation. Simple, but not easy! These reflections have been, in great part, with questions that require a lifetime and almost daily look into ourselves, into our call and into God’s place in our lives. Let us pray for each other that we will always seek God’s path in our lives.

“You are my inheritance … You show me the path of life.”

Readings for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21

Psalm 16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Galatians 5: 1, 13-18

Luke 9: 51-62

Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.

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