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Sunday Scripture: Go and proclaim the kingdom of God

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9: 51-62

The readings of this week continue last week’s idea about forming a whole new way of thinking about the Messiah and His message. This week the emphasis moves in the direction of discipleship. Jesus speaks very plainly, perhaps to confront those who are with Him with a whole new way of thinking about the kind of life they would have if they were to continue following Him.


                                                                          
The text of our Gospel passage begins with what is called the Journey Narrative. After beginning His preaching ministry in Galilee, where He was rejected, He set out on His journey to Jerusalem. Again He was rejected, this time by the Samaritans.
 
As we might expect, the disciples “rose to the occasion” to retaliate against the hostility of the Samaritans. But Jesus defused their misplaced “heroism” and resolutely continued on His journey by another direction.

The three responses of Jesus, sometimes called proverbs, point out demands of discipleship that often seem radical. He was straightforward about what His followers might experience at times. First, the Son of Man did not have a fixed dwelling place (Luke 9:58). Second, the demands of preaching the kingdom might sometimes move one outside the patriarchal expectations of the prevailing social structure (Luke 9:60). Third, the demands of commitment might sometimes call for heroic fidelity to the needs of the ministry (Luke 9:62).

It is true that at times Jesus’ followers can and ought to practice the virtue of filial piety. In fact, that may most times be their responsibility. But it is also true that those demands must be prudently managed so that the demands of the ministry are also well served.
 
If we look back at our first reading, we see the instance of Elisha’s call to ministry by Elijah. Elisha’s response to Elijah was a prompt assent, though he would first bid loving farewell to his parents.

In many Bible translations Elijah’s response is given in a very confusing form, but a good rendition of it might be like this: “Go, and then return to me, for I have done something very important to you.”
 
What Elijah had done was place his own mantle over Elisha to symbolize calling him and bringing him into the mission of prophecy in Israel. The tradition seems to establish the reasonableness of Elisha’s request.
 
To move to the reading from St. Paul to the Galatians, we see that the crucial point is about the opposition between what the apostle terms the flesh and the spirit. In Paul’s usage the flesh refers to what is called our “lower” nature, and spirit refers to God’s Spirit that informs our “higher” nature. Flesh would mean our humanness, and spirit would mean the power given us by God to resist the allurements of the flesh.

Paul appeals to the Galatians to walk by the Spirit and to give up contention and envy in their  life together in the Christian community (Galatians 5: 25-26).
 
With the psalmist we can raise our minds to the Lord who is our chosen portion to whom we have committed our lot. It is God who shows us the path of life and the way to the fullness of joy (Psalm 16).
 
Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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