“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