This Sunday’s Mass readings inspired our Beatley headline. The scriptural theme seems to address people preparing to say goodbye to real life. These people, as they hear God’s calling, soon learn they’re saying hello to that life.
The first reading is the Old Testament version of this realization (1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21). Elijah is enlisted to recruit Elisha to a life of discipleship. Elisha says …
“Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answers, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?”
Yeah. He’s freeing him from slavery to his world so he can focus on sharing what’s real: God’s undying love at work within us. As Paul tells the Galatians in our second reading (Gal 5:1, 13-18),
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
21st century people are often locked in selfhood, so that kind of selfless love needs a lot of practice. Spiritual maturity is about being freed from our narrow viewpoint and seeing beyond what the earthbound see. That’s why, once we are called to follow the light out of our tunnel, looking back at the gloom that once surrounded us is pointless. In this gospel reading from Luke (Lk 9:51-62), a disciple isn’t to say goodbye to life, but hello to a better-lit approach to it.
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.”
What Christ offers his disciples is a map into that kingdom, which exists not in time, but in the space of one’s soul. The gospel of Luke makes good use of Christ’s adversaries to show us the way (LK 17:21), as the Pharisees ask Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”
“The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”
Let it be.