Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time "Choosing Between Two Goods"

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village. As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." And to another he said, "Follow me." But he replied, "(Lord,) let me go first and bury my father." But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." And another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." (To him) Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9: 51-62)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I wish to put aside all distractions and to give you my total focus. I will do nothing more important today than to meditate prayerfully on your goodness and your active role in my life. Though I am unworthy to be in your presence, I trust in your mercy and love. Through this moment of prayer I want to draw closer to you and learn to live more like you.

Petition: Lord, may the enticements of the world pale in comparison with you.

1. Only One Thing Is Necessary: Temptation is a choice between good and evil. But sometimes what is harder than making the choice between these two opposites is choosing between two goods. Such is the situation in which the would-be disciples in today’s Gospel passage find themselves. In such cases, we could say that a good occasionally becomes the enemy of what is best. Sometimes we need to say no to a good option in order to embrace the one thing necessary. In today’s Gospel, as well as in tomorrow’s, we encounter people who might have become Christ’s close followers, who might have even been chosen to be one of his Apostles, but who were held back by other concerns or motives. Is my own heart open to Christ and his ways or do I lack detachment in some area of my life?

2. Patriotism Must Come Second: The first incident is the encounter between the messengers of Jesus and the Samaritan villagers. It is likely that the Samaritan villagers had heard of Jesus the miracle worker and were anxious to see a sign or to hear him preach. But the concern that holds them back and keeps them from following Jesus is their patriotism. The Samaritans and the Jews had been bitter enemies for centuries and systematically avoided all unnecessary contact with each another. When they learned that Jesus and his disciples were Jews and were headed for Jerusalem, their interest became opposition. We would have to agree that patriotism and devotion to the national cause are both good things in themselves. But when nationalism or ethnic sentiments become the eyes through which one sees all reality, including spiritual and eternal reality, one is in danger of losing the proper perspective.

3. Once You Have Set Your Course, Don’t Look Back: Let us consider the man who wants to follow Jesus, but wants to go and say farewell to his family first. We cannot help but feel that we would have done the exact same thing as this would-be disciple. Didn’t our parents teach us when we were young to inform them about when we were leaving the house and when we would be back, and where we were going, and with whom? This man has high social and family values. One could only hope that all men could be this sensitive to let their families know their whereabouts at all times. Yet, before the urgent call of the Kingdom of God, social and family concerns take a back seat. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I am distracted by so many things in life. Even though many of them are legitimate, I must learn to keep my eyes focused on you and trust in you. Half-way surrenders do not interest you. You want all of my heart. Help me to give it to you willingly and joyfully.

Resolution: I will recommit to living wholeheartedly for God today, even though certain members of my family are likely to call me a “fanatic” or tell me that I’m “getting carried away.” 

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