13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 26, 2016)
1 Kings 19:16b,19-21
No. More. Excuses! That pretty much sums up today’s Gospel reading from Luke. The words we hear Jesus speak today are a direct contradiction to the way our current society acts and believes. Our society tells us that honest answers are favorable, but not really necessary. Our society tells us that it’s almost always someone else’s fault. However, Jesus tells us to…. are you ready for it…. Stop all the nonsense, stop giving excuses, take responsibility for your own actions and follow Him.
Follow me through this for a moment. To Jesus, Jerusalem is the final destination of his earthly ministry. He is to travel there for one reason… to die for our sins. Without His death on the cross, our sins are not forgiven. Without His death on the cross, death cannot be conquered. Without His death on the cross, the gates of Heaven are closed to us. He knew this and He was not going to let anything or anyone steer Him off of this course. No excuses!
With that in mind, Jesus and His disciples were traveling to Jerusalem, a predominately Jewish city. Along the way, they wanted to stop and rest in a Samaritan village. However, the people in the village knew they were going to Jerusalem and therefore they wouldn’t show them any hospitality. This was because the Samaritans were very hostile toward the Jews. So what do the Apostles James and John ask, “Hey Jesus, they don’t like us so do you want us to call down a fire bomb on them?”
This mentality is the one that always cracks me up in our “politically correct, all loving, all inclusive and all accepting society” (I was trying to pour on the sarcasm pretty thick there in case you missed it). How many times do we read about one group of people spewing hate towards another group because of their beliefs? Marriage, abortion, guns, politics. Any of these issues can get heated very quickly and, in a group setting, often ends up with someone getting punched in the face. But what does this accomplish? NOTHING!
But what does Jesus tell James and John to do to these people who don’t like them? He tells them to move on and keep their eyes toward Jerusalem. I’m not saying these “hot button” topics shouldn’t be discussed. But if the listening party only spews hate and violence back at you, it’s going to steer you off of your course so just move on. No excuses!
After passing by the Samaritan village, we next hear of two different people wanting to join the traveling party and follow Jesus. However, both of the people want it on their terms. “Hey Jesus, I’ll follow you to the end of the world…. But let me first finish this honey-do list.” Now it may sound like Jesus is being unloving when the first person is rebuked for wanting to bury his father before following Jesus. The back-story to this is that many scripture scholars believe the potential disciple’s father is probably in good health at the moment and has no plans of dying in the near future. Awkward…
When I felt called to becoming a Catholic Deacon, imagine if I would have said, “Yes, I’ll absolutely be a Deacon…. As soon as my kids are grown, I’ve paid off my student loans, paid off my mortgage and retired from my job… THEN Jesus, THEN I’ll follow you to the end of the world.”
Now… let’s get personal and down to business. I want to challenge you today by posing two questions for your consideration. Ask yourself, “Do I love God?” and “What does He want from me?” I’ve been praying on these two questions for more years than I can remember. Sometimes I think I’ve got the answers, other times the answers seem clouded.
I mean… I know I love God. But for me personally, it’s that second question I struggle with, “What does He want from me?”
It seems that more recently I’ve finally reached an answer that feels right. So, what does God want from me? To be with Him in heaven after I die. God is the source of all love. He created me and wants me to return to him after I die. I have a feeling; call me crazy, that He wants that from you as well!
God is our creator and our judge. Contrary to popular belief, His vote is the only one that matters on our judgment day. The Bible and the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, gives us the teachings we need to follow if we call ourselves a follower of Christ. And news flash, many of these teachings are not easy. Recall last week’s Gospel reading where Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
So if I want to spend eternity with God, I better live a life that mirrors God’s love. I better start being more faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I’m just a hypocrite and I’ll have a lot of explaining to do on my judgment day.
What about you? Do you truly love God? Do you feel that He is calling you to follow Him more faithfully? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to cut through all of excuses and live out your faith to the fullest!