THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Respond to God's Call without Regret – Follow Jesus and Offer One's Whole Life
First Reading (1 Kgs 19: 16, 19-21): The Prophet Elisha is called
Second Reading (Gal 5: 1, 13-18): We should act according to the Holy Spirit
Gospel (Lk 9: 51-62): Without hesitation follow the Lord
“Every year it is difficult to face the new year, but face it we do yearly.” (1)
-“If my heart tells me it is good and meet, I will not regret to die nine times for it”.(2)
-“Those who do not incite the jealousy of others are mediocre people.” (3)
-“Eighty men served Mo Zi. They would all go through fire and withstand the sword. Death would not turn them back. This was brought about by a transformation.” (4)
-“Rooted on earth, face the heavens. Take up responsibility from heaven so as to enrich people. This is what we learn from reading the books of the Sages.” (5)
‘Someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’...Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Lk 9: 57-62)
Over the centuries many people have followed Jesus. Jesus himself was always very clear about what it means to remain with him and what will be the result of this undertaking.
The Scripture passage quoted above also tells us the characteristics disciples of Jesus should possess.
First, Jesus' followers must be able to endure and tolerate hardship, even to having no pillow for their heads or money for food. They should be able to live without comforts and stand constant trials. Theirs is a long term testing. “Every year it is difficult to face the new year but face it we do yearly.” (1)
Secondly, for Jesus' followers, the kingdom of heaven must be their absolute priority. They must understand that when the appropriate time comes they must put all else aside for the sake of this priority. “Let the dead bury their own dead.” That is, they must let those who are part of the world take care of those worldly matters. Actually we all belong to 'this world' and deeply love our world. As Christians we should not avoid the things of this world or the responsibilities that go with this. However, we are “in the world but not of the world,” because we have another more important mission.
Thirdly, Jesus' disciples must follow him steadfastly, stay with him without hesitation, complaint or regret. Together with Jesus they must struggle all their lives, stand with him shoulder to shoulder, support him in all his endeavors. Their hearts should parallel that of Qu Yuan who said, “If my heart tells me it is good and meet, I will not regret to die nine time for it.”(2) The disciples' faith and steadfastness must endure until the end.
Jesus' words are very demanding. They are strict, serious and absolute, with no room for compromise. They can sound quite unfeeling, brooking no argument. This is because they were spoken by Jesus who himself was strict and uncompromising. He does not want his followers to score only 99 points but a full 100 %.
Actually Jesus was also a very versatile person. He had both a strict and a meek side to him.
On the one hand, Jesus was kind and humble, full of compassion and understanding of people. He touched children's heads gently, forgave the sinful woman her sin, performed the miracle of the 'Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes' to feed the crowd. He wept at the death of his friend and shed tears at the suffering of his own people. His words at the 'Last Discourse' shortly before he left the world are full of hope, love, sweetness and tenderness. At that evening meal full of love and warmth, he left us his heart, and his Body and Blood to be our food. Jesus has all the virtues Chinese culture holds in such high regard, such as gentleness, sincerity, and so on.
On the other hand, Jesus was a revolutionary. He challenged some of the traditional bad practices. He even said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Mt 10:34). Simeon believed that “Jesus is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed.” (Lk 2:34)
In Chinese popular wisdom, there is this saying, “Those who do not incite the jealousy of others are mediocre people.”(3). God called the Prophet Jeremiah “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jer 1:1) Is this not perhaps the responsibility and mission of prophets or any person with high ideals?
Most people are not able to smile and be friendly with others every day, nor is even an ideal organization always harmonious. Jesus did not come to this world only to build up a loving and united church, he wanted to look for people who shared the same vision as he and were willing to struggle hard and long to attain the ideals of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the period of the Spring and Autumn Warring Kingdoms, Mo Zi formed a group to work for the ideals of love, peace and non-violence. All the people in this group were the kind of persons Jesus wanted. They were firm, persevering and patient. In the group there were many who did not fear death. “Eighty men served Mo Zi. They would all go through fire and withstand the sword. Death would not turn them back. This was brought about by transformation.” (4)
The 'transformation' was the result of what the Chinese mean by the saying, “What does one learn from reading the books of the sages?” Culture itself is a kind of power. The sages' books teach us to be wise, to be persons of integrity, and to live a life of magnanimity. “Rooted on earth, face the Heavens. Take up responsibility from Heaven so as to enrich people.” (5) Actually in itself all of this is extraordinarily attractive.
Following Jesus also has a great attraction. In Jesus we can fulfill our inmost selves, become people of integrity and wisdom; in Jesus we can live joyfully, filled with the grace of God and the happiness of peace. In Jesus we can spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth and help build the Kingdom of Heaven among us.
If this is the case, how can we ever regret having chosen Jesus? Why should we need to turn back to a life that we had given up, a life that had been full of wickedness and impurities ?