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Thursday, 23 June 2016

Reflection/Homily: Thirteenth 13th Sunday of the Year C

Theme: The Art of Followership

There is this popular opinion which holds that success without a successor is a failure. This opinion has generally driven great achievers to work for some successors to continue their success stories. We can believe this to be true in the case of Jesus who went about looking for followers and disciples who were going to continue his mission on earth. He attracted a lot of followers which can be grouped into three. The first group was the crowd who followed him looking for signs and miracles. Today, this group is represented in the laity. The people in the second group were those called by Christ to follow him as his witnesses (the 72 disciples) and today this group is represented in the religious. The last group was called to follow him as his special friends (the 12 Apostles) and today this group is represented in the clergy.

One thing common among the three groups is that they all exercised the art of followership. Some came on their own, some others were called while the rest were specially called and chosen. Whether called or not, they all followed Christ though in different respects. In today’s gospel reading (Luke 9:51-62), we find a similar situation in Christ’s encounter with three persons. The first person came to Jesus on his own with the intention of following him. The second person was called specially to follow Christ. The third person whose calling was not explicit was also invited to follow Christ. Their responses can also be grouped into three ways and they represent how many of us respond to Jesus’ call to follow him.

The first person came to follow Jesus with high economic expectations. Aware of his hidden motive, Jesus quickly told him that his life was a life of poverty without even a place to lay his head. Those who only follow Jesus when they are in need or for what they shall gain belong to this group. Judas is an example. For them, Jesus is only a provider. The second person was called directly but his excuse was to bury his father first. Perhaps, he was the first son who according to Jewish custom should not leave the house until his father joins his ancestors. He used religious laws to cover up his inability to respond positively to Christ’s call. Those who use religious observances to cover up their evil deeds belong to this group (e.g The Jews and Coban). The third person did not give any excuse preventing him from following Christ but he exhibited an inordinate attachment to his family which was a distraction in his case. Aware of this, Jesus also rebuked him. Those who have several things like business, work, etc keeping them from following Jesus and who expose themselves to elements of distraction belong to this group.

These persons did not respond positively to the invitation to follow Jesus perhaps because they did not understand the intricacies involved. Following Jesus is our primary assignment and every other thing is secondary. By virtue of our baptism, we are made Christ-like and ought to follow in his footsteps. Our call to follow Christ demands an unreserved commitment and positive response just as Elisha did in the first reading (1 Kings 19:16.19-21). Elisha quickly abandoned his ploughing at the farm the moment Elijah threw his cloak on him signifying his calling. He slew the oxen signifying total abandonment of his old way of life for a new way of life.  With the meat he celebrated the joy of following his master and quickly followed Elijah.

These are the attitudes demanded of us in our art of followership. We have to follow the Lord whole and entire without leaving anything to draw us back. Today, Jesus is inviting us to follow him by living a holy and chaste life. Let us not give excuses or postpone our response like these men did. We are also called to follow Jesus in doing good, in loving our enemies, helping people in their various needs according to our abilities. We are called to follow Jesus in doing the will of God in our various occupations. As lawyers, Jesus calls us to follow him in defending the rights of the oppressed. As medical professionals, Jesus calls us to follow him in healing the sick. As politicians, Jesus calls us to follow him in alleviating the suffering of the masses. Jesus calls us all to follow him in unique ways according to our occupations.

Jesus needs people from all walks of life in other to touch the lives of all men. No matter your status, there is a space for you among the followers of Jesus. Jesus needs our cooperation and that is why he is calling us out of the slavery of our sinful way of life to follow him. For this reason the second reading (Galatians 5:1,13-18) reminds us never to submit again to the yoke of slavery since we are called to enjoy freedom. With this freedom, we can easily follow the Lord without reservations. Therefore, today, resolve your excuses and follow the Lord because according to the psalmist “It is you o Lord who are my portion”. God loves you.

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