In the book None of These Diseases, S.I. McMillen tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, "Are you a leader?" Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, "No," and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: "Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower."
In both the first reading and the gospel, family obligations are offered as excuses for not taking up the call to discipleship. Elisha and the third of the three men in the gospel ask for a delay in following until they have the opportunity to say goodbye. Even in the very act of being called, their attention in not on the One calling and they are distracted by other things. The example Jesus uses—the plower who keeps looking back—is an apt description of such distraction. A plower must keep his attention on the oxen, using his goad to keep them in line. Turing aside, or back or losing attention will result in the oxen going astray and plowing crooked furrows. If there is a lack of attention and focus at the moment of the call, what can be expected later? The second man in the gospel wants to stay until his parents die and he buries them, then he will follow Jesus. Burying one’s kin was a pious religious, social, and familial duty. The story of Abraham includes a lengthy description of the trouble he went to in burying his wife, Sarah. The dying Jacob commands his sons to bury him with his ancestors in the land. The importance of this obligation is poignantly and dramatically told in the story of Tobit who lost his property and position, and was sentenced to death, for burying his fellow countrymen against the orders of the king. Despite his suffering, Tobit instructs Tobiah: “My son, when I die give me a decent burial. Honor your mother...Remember, my son that she went through many trials for your sake while you were in her womb. And when she dies, bury her in the same grave with me. Burying the dead is an expression of devotion and piety. Jesus’ call to discipleship takes precedence over all other commitments—not just frivolous or unworthy commitments, but even over family responsibilities and obligations. Family is not absolute value; following Jesus is.
My brothers and sisters we are gathered here because we faithfully follow Jesus and love him and adore him. We come faithfully to Mass every week but some of our family members don’t share that same faithfulness. They don’t believe in attending Mass faithfully each week, at times family members or friends ridicule someone if they believe that they are a “holy roller.” At times they live lives that don’t go in line with our Christian values and at times they try to bring down the person that is faithful to Christ and his church. My brothers and sisters the Gospel this evening/morning does not tell us we should completely cut our relationships with our families and unfortunately that was the mentality of the pre-Vatican II era when it came to priests and religious that there were many rules and regulations in preventing someone to see their family even at times denying them in going to a relatives funeral but what we are called to do as baptized Christians is not follow the trend of others who are misleading and to realize we have only one leader that will bring us truth, happiness, peace and everlasting life and that is Christ. Yes, there will be times that we will be mocked and ridiculed for living lives that are in line with God but why would we want to for a lack of a better word to follow a “loser.” I don’t know about you but I want to follow a winner, I want to follow someone who will never disappoint me, I want to follow someone who loves me so much that he died for me that is the leader that I want in my life.
Pope Paul VI who was pope in the 1960’ and 70’s was giving alot of grief because of his encycilical “Humane Vitae.” Pope Paul VI was not following the crowd but being faithful to his service as the successor of St. Peter and following Christ, which unfortunately was viewed as Rome putting their nose in a couple’s bedroom instead of seeing it as guiding couples in being faithful to Christ and his Church and also seeing what they roles as a Catholic husband and wife signify. In one of his homilies he speaks beautifully of this Christ we are called to follow and sums up who this Christ is. Pope Paul VI says, “I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother. He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers......remember it is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and reecho for all time even to the ends of the earth.”
My brothers and sisters let us not follow the trend that goes on today in society but let us follow the one that will never let us down and let us acclaim what we prayed in the Responsorial psalm this evening/morning, “Keep me O God, for in you I take refuge; I say to the Lord, “My Lord are you. O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.”
Living Liturgy, p. 165