13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Luke 9:51-62)
Back in the days when I was going to school, if you miss a school day, you had to bring a letter of excuse from your parent telling the reason why you were absent from the school. George was my best friend in school. One day he brought a letter of absence from his mother. That was my all time favorite letter of absence. It said “Please excuse George for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday newspaper off the porch on Sunday and when we found it on Monday, we thought it was Sunday.” Excuse filled society and world! One of the most respected authors in America made this observation: you can do whatever you want to and at the same time all you need to do is come up with an excuse; especially classifying every human failing as some kind of disease. (John MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience, p. 23).
There are close to 1. 2 billion Church members around the globe and yet, why are we not making more of a moral and spiritual impact? Why is it, that on Sunday morning, hundreds of churches have empty pews? The Holy Bible is the word of God, and yet, why is it that so few read it? If Jesus is 100% present in the Eucharist, then why is that so few people getting transformed? If you and I believe there is a heaven & hell, why do we keep so quiet about the gospel? I’ll tell you why, there’s a lack of commitment!
Making excuses is not something new. People even made excuses in Jesus’ day. Today’s Gospel, while describing Jesus’ call to discipleship explains how he handles lame excuses. One day, Jesus was walking along the road with a group of people. Jesus turned to one of the young men and said to him, “Follow me.” The man answered, “First let me go and bury my father.” That sounds like a good excuse, but we don’t even know that the man’s father was dead. He may have wanted to wait until his father died before he began to follow Jesus. Jesus answered him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Jesus then turned to another man in the crowd and said, “Follow me.” The man answered, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back home and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus did not like this man’s excuse either. He said to him, “No man who starts to plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus was calling those who would give up everything — family, friends, their job — and follow him. What he got instead was excuses.
Did you pay attention to the first reading? Notice the response of the prophet Elisha! Having received the prophetic responsibility from Elijah, he abandons his twelve pairs of oxen. Twelve pairs of oxen was a sign of his wealth; that is all he had! He killed them all and gave a party to his men. He then builds a fire in which he burns his plough. All of Elisha’s actions clearly show the radical nature of his commitment to the Lord. He considered all else an idol, a false god.
Absolute commitment is the name of the game for a true follower of Christ. Both words are equally important. Commitment is the surrendering to another of one’s entire being with the intention of forming a lasting relationship. Commitment has never been easy, but in our world today it is especially difficult because our culture is oriented to the transitory. Someone once said “Immediate self-gratification without any inconvenience or sacrifice is one of the few “moral” norms left in our society. Procrastination—the inability to make a commitment—is a plague in our society”. It is a great trap of the devil, who uses it to keep us away from following Jesus with absolute commitment. Notice how Jesus is always on the go, leaving one village and going to another. Jesus is on a mission from God; He is no procrastinator.
To follow Jesus, commitment is very necessary because Jesus was never anything but a firm, resounding “yes,” the “Great Amen,” to His Heavenly Father. The gospel reminds us today that when the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, it simply means nothing and nobody could intimidate Jesus or taking Him away from His commitment. Jesus is still calling us today, “Follow me!” Will you follow, or will you make excuses? I remember, one day this young man called me and he wanted to come and talked to me. When he came in, he gave me a sheet of paper. I started reading it. The title “my spiritual plan for going to heaven”! And everything is written down very carefully after much preparation. I said ‘wow… awesome plan’. He said ‘I know it is an awesome plan and if I do it I will definitely be a saint. But my problem, I have a hard time making this commitment. I am very week and I have way too many distractions. This young man is a representative of all of us. All of us know, what are the things we need to do to make a commitment; grow in our relationship with the Lord, to be a good Catholic, husband and wife, good father and mother and good children. But we are week and we have way too many distractions. So, what is the solution? St. Paul had that problem! He took that problem to the Lord and after hearing his problem the Lord gave him a solution. He said “my grace is sufficient for you”. Later Paul would say, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. We have to tap into God’s grace daily. Jesus said in the gospel, if you remain in me and I remain in you will bear much fruit. Without me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5) That’s why one of the prayers at the mass reminds us’ you come to us in Word and Sacrament to strengthen us in holiness! By reading the sacred scriptures, receiving different sacraments consistently and faithfully, and spending time with the Lord in regular prayer and fasting, we strengthen ourselves to make a faithful commitment.
The 3 B’s of Commitment
I. Be Committed to God: Real commitment does not have an on and off button. Real commitment is not a Sunday thing, its 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with no vacations or off days. You are the same person on Monday through Saturday as you are on Sunday. If we are really committed to God, It will show. Others will see the fruits of your commitment.
II. Be committed to family: More than 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Because of so many distractions, we fail, many times, to be good husbands, wives and good children. Let’s influence the world by creating holy families!
III. Be Committed to your Church. This consists of 2 Things.
A. Committed to Church Attendance. B. Committed to Church Growth. How many people did you talk to this week? How many did you talk to about Christ? How many friends did you invite have a relationship with Jesus? Didn’t have the gut – Not committed to Church growth!
Let me tell you a story using four typical Church Members. I’ll name them: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to do and everybody thought that somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it but none of them did it, so it didn’t get done. Somebody got angry because it was everybody’s job. Everybody thought for sure that somebody would do it, but nobody asked anybody. In the end the job wasn’t done, and everybody blamed somebody when nobody asked anybody. Trust God, and just do it. He is the one that gives the increase! Let’s be committed to soul winning.
Dear Jesus, when you call us, may we never offer excuses. Instead, may we be willing to give up everything and follow you. Amen.