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GOSPEL AND REFLECTION
THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
First Reading – 1 Kgs 19:16. 19-21
Elisha rose and followed Elijah and became his servant.
The Lord said to Elijah: ‘Go, you are to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’
Leaving there, Elijah came on Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself being with the twelfth. Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you’ he said. Elijah answered, ‘Go, go back; for have I done anything to you?’ Elisha turned away, took the pair of oxen and slaughtered them. He used the plough for cooking the oxen, then gave to his men, who ate. He then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.
Ps 15:1-2. 5. 7-11. R. cf. v.5
(R.) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Second Reading – Gal 5:1. 13-18
My brothers, you were called to freedom.
When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.
Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you.
1 Sm 3:9; Jn 6:68
Speak, O Lord, your servant is listening;
you have the words of everlasting life.
Gospel – Lk 9:11-17
Jesus resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem. I will follow you wherever you will go.
As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.
As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me,’ replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’
Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
Most instances of enmity in our world are between near neighbours with differing cultures or slightly differing interpretations of reality. It is much easier to love those who are different from us if they are on the other side of the world. Jews and Samaritans shared a common origin story, but their respective histories led to a deeply conflictual relationship. While the Samaritans worshipped the God of Israel, they accepted only the first five books of the Bible as God’s word. They were despised by their southern neighbours. Jesus and his Galilean Jewish friends could hardly have expected a gracious welcome in Samaria. They may have been received more warmly had Jesus planned to stay and worship in the temple on Mt. Gerizim, the centre of Samaritan life and worship. The problem for the Samaritans is Jesus’ decision to use Samaritan territory simply as a staging post on his journey to Jerusalem, the heart of Jewish life and worship: the Samaritans “did not receive him because his face was set towards Jerusalem.”
James and John have an excessively violent reaction to the unwelcoming Samaritans: “Do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” The force of this question can easily be lost. James and John have heard Jesus telling them to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, bless those who curse them, and pray for those who mistreat them (Luke 6:27-28). And yet they want to call down fire on those who do not receive him. Jesus makes it clear that violence is not the way of God’s prophet, even in the face of rejection. He has no word of condemnation for the Samaritan villagers who failed to receive him. He simply turns and rebukes his two disciples and moves on to another village.
There is a sense of relentlessness in this passage. Jesus has “set his face to Jerusalem” and there is no turning back for him or for those who join him on the journey. In the company of his disciples, he now moves inexorably to Jerusalem where he will be “lifted up” in death and exaltation. Bringing the good news and establishing God’s reign of peace is the purpose of the journey. Jesus makes it clear that those who wish to follow him must live out in their lives the pattern of his life, a life of total commitment. While there is a degree of hyperbole in his insistence that the dead are to bury their own dead, it makes the point that there are no half measures in a gospel way of life. We are invited to enter into the journey with all its demands. There is no room on the journey for violence or for clinging to familiar securities when they conflict with the call of the gospel to deal with injustice. If we are serious about saving our planet, we must relinquish the certainties we have known and be prepared to “set our faces” towards whatever it takes to ensure God’s reign of peace in our common home.
Sr Veronica Lawson rsm
© The scriptural quotations are taken from the Jerusalem Bible, published and copyright 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton Longman and Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Co Inc, and used by permission of the publishers. The English translation of the Psalm Responses, the Alleluia and Gospel Verses, and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, and the Titles, Summaries, and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass © 1997, 1981, 1968, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.