As we slowly ease into Summer and into the part of our Church Year known as Ordinary Time, our thoughts are not far from the great feasts we have celebrated after Easter, that is the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord.
Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ and the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, all remind us of our place in the Kingdom of God.
We must ask ourselves: How did we get to this point? How is it that we take the stories we have heard and believe them with faith and truth? How is it that what our Lord said and did has meaning for us today? In other words, why are we here?
We are here because our Lord has called us here. The invitation is simple. Today he says: “Follow me.”
It is the same invitation we hear Elijah offer Elisha in our first reading from the First Book of Kings, and the same confirmation of the call from St. Paul when he says to the Galatians: “For you were called for Freedom.”
With each call and invitation, it is perfectly fine to ask: Why am I being called? The answer again is simple, the call to follow Jesus will usually lead us to a place that is a little bit better than where we are now.
In our Gospel from Luke today it says that Jesus “resolutely” determined he was to journey to Jerusalem. If that sounds familiar it is because this is the same Gospel we read on Palm Sunday. “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “I must go” to Jerusalem. In the Gospel of Mark he looks toward Jerusalem and says “I must suffer.”
To look to Jerusalem, knowing what he was to endure took a lot of courage, and faith, and character on his part. He could have looked back, gone back to Galilee, avoided Jerusalem at all costs, and melted into the background. As a matter of fact, in John’s Gospel, that’s what he does. He sends his disciples into Jerusalem ahead of him, for the Feast, but of himself, he says it is not “yet” his time to go.
Yet, In that same gospel story, we then see him sneak into Jerusalem, unnoticed, to hear and see what the crowds are saying about him. He silently slips out and goes to Samaria, far away from Jerusalem to a village where no one knows who he is.
It is not often we see Jesus pining for the past. He normally calls us to move forward with him. He always has someplace to go or something else to do.
However, two people in the gospel today look back to where they came from before following him. And he tells them not to look behind but to keep their eyes forward or the furrows behind the plow will be crooked. When we look behind, to the past, we can’t see what is up ahead. When we keep our eye resolutely on the task ahead, the past is not so strong that we are forced to be left behind.
Jesus wants us to move forward, to explore the territory in front of us. What is it we see? Where are we going? What is up ahead that is better than what we have left behind?
As is frequently the case, it is sometimes easier to stay where we are. We are comfortable in our surroundings; the people are familiar, and we don’t have to worry about any surprises up ahead. I have often said to you… “…it is okay to stay where we are.” There is nothing wrong with enjoying the life God has given to us.
I don’t recommend living in the past, for sometimes we get stuck there and getting stuck in the past usually isn’t very good for us.
Paul says if we live by the Spirit we will be guided by the Spirit and not have to live in the past and follow the old ways and the old laws. Living by the Spirit and the new law tells us we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
The Lord says to Elijah that it is time for him to move forward to a new life in heaven. To do this he must first call and anoint Elisha as a new prophet. Elisha hesitates “please let me kiss my father and mother good-bye and I will follow you.” Elijah says, “Go Back!” Have I done anything to force you? Elisha goes back and prepares for his new life ahead.
When we are invited forward, we must make a choice. Stay where we are or move forward. As we know with Jesus, moving forward can lead to unexpected consequences, even things like the passion and death on the cross.
But without things like the passion and death, there is no resurrection. Without the resurrection there is no call to go to the mountain and see our Lord ascend.
What am I supposed to do now? Simply follow the instructions to go out to the whole world and tell the good news.
If we have never heard the Good News, we will miss the invitation in the Gospel that Jesus gives us today:
Which is to look ahead and “Follow Me.”