“Elisha… taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to the people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”
1 Kgs. 19:21
“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
This upcoming week we are celebrating Independence Day. As a church, we are also celebrating the Fortnight for Freedom, a time dedicated to prayer and reflection on the meaning of freedom, particularly religious liberty.
The readings this Sunday challenge us to recognize the radical nature of freedom. We hear about Elisha’s call to follow in the footsteps of a prophet. A call requiring him to turn his back on his former way of life, as good as it was, and start over.
St. Paul tells us that true freedom is the freedom to follow the Spirit. This requires turning away from all that is unhealthy and harmful to our bodies and souls and setting our sights on following Jesus. Freedom, like love, is not easy. It requires change.
Jesus teaching in the Gospel is clear: the freedom of discipleship does not allow excuses. We must be willing to follow Jesus all the way to Jerusalem, and die with him there.
As we celebrate Independence Day this week, may we remember the freedom our hearts desire is not a cheap freedom. It is not simply freedom to do whatever we want. A disciple’s freedom demands that we turn our backs on the past and resolutely follow Jesus, wherever he leads us.
Lincoln A. Wood
“The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the ‘one mediator between God and men. But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself with every man, the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery’ is offered to all men.”
“Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him… He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected… and be killed and on the third day be raised… If anyone wishes to come after me, he must … take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Jesus sacrifice on the cross is unique and yet we are able to participate in it. Jesus was praying in solitude and yet the disciples were with him. Our Union with Jesus is a core mystery of our faith. Jesus made the journey through death to life for us, and at the same time, we are called to follow him on this journey.
How do we make sense of this in our contemporary society that values the autonomous individual above everything else? The world would have us think that we are masters of our own destiny and if we are young, good-looking, and have enough toys we will be happy. We will create our own happiness through hard work and consumption. The Gospel reveals the lie to this illusion. No amount of hard work or consumption will make us happy.
We find our joy in being a part of something greater than ourselves . It is only in being part of a larger mission (the mission of Jesus continued through His church) that our souls rejoice. It is when we are working together for a common good that we find the peace of solitude in the midst of community. Making sacrifices for a higher purpose is the way we “save our life.” Not because of our own strength or hard work, but because we are working with Jesus, the one who has conquered death. As Christians, we are never alone. We are united to one another through the cross of Jesus. Living that unity and sacrifice leads us to joy!
Lincoln A. Wood