13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 26, 2022
A big, burly man visited the pastor’s home and asked to see the minister’s wife, a woman well known for her commitment to charity.
“Ma’am,” the man said, “I wish to draw your attention to the terrible plight of a poor family in your neighborhood. The father sadly passed away, the mother is too ill to work, and her five children have little to eat. What’s more, they’re about to be evicted from their apartment and turned onto the cold, empty streets, unless someone, like yourself, comes up with their $1000.00 monthly rent.”
“That’s so terrible,” exclaimed the minister’s wife. “May I ask how you’re related to this most unfortunate family?”
The man, looking down to the ground softly replies, “I’m the landlord!”
While that man may have seemed to have had good intentions at the start, his real motives were hidden —Much like the two would-be followers of Christ in today’s gospel, who, at first, seem anxious to follow Christ, but then, put the brakes on. One of them asks to be allowed first to be able to go and bury his father while the second wants to bid farewell to his family. In both of these instances, the would-be followers of Jesus place conditions on their discipleship. In both of these instances, Jesus’ would-be followers want him to agree to their timeline. In both of these instances, there’s a doubt that the two really have what it takes to put one’s hand to the plough — to labor —for the Kingdom of God.
What does it take to be a laborer for the Kingdom of God? First, it takes honesty — honesty with God and with ourselves. We can’t ever hide anything from God anyway, so really, there’s no point in ever trying. In fact, the fastest and the best way that we can grow in life is to be honest with God about the challenges we face and then to ask God for the grace we need to overcome them.
If we stop and think about it, the honest truth about ourselves is best discovered when we pray in silence and ask the Lord to make our fears and hopes, our anxieties and our desires consciously known to us. Sometimes, we’re really good at pushing things inside of us that we’d rather not acknowledge or that we’d rather not deal with, at the time. In our gospel passage, for example, the evangelist doesn’t record whether the father was already dead or terminally ill. It seems that, if the father were indeed already dead, the son would have been making burial arrangements before his encounter with Christ. Perhaps the man deep down, just didn’t have the full commitment to follow Christ, and so, sought to use his father’s age or grave illness as an excuse. Such behavior though, just makes it more difficult for us to move ahead in life.
The honesty required of being a laborer of the Kingdom also entails listening carefully to observations others may have of our conduct or of our witness, especially if several different people notice the same sort of behavior in us. We can then take those observations and reflect on what about them may weaken our witness value to Christ and seek to correct them.
When we’re honest with ourselves, we’re also humble enough to consider our own sinfulness and not shy away from taking responsibility for any past failures or mistakes and seek to learn from them. Such truth about ourselves sometimes isn’t easy to accept or to acknowledge, but the truth about ourselves must be consciously embraced before we can ever hope to labor for the Kingdom in earnest and with full vigor.
Being a laborer for the Kingdom also entails a willingness to accept the cross along with the crown in our lives. The cross is anything in our lives which is hard to do, that which we’d rather avoid, that which perhaps brings upon us the judgment and ridicule of others. In our gospel, the cross for the both would-be followers is leaving their old way of life behind, and becoming fully committed to doing what it takes to follow the Lord with one’s whole heart, mind and soul.
Unless they could overcome their hesitations, the crown of victory, the crown of salvation, the crown of faith could never be theirs. It’s a decision they each would have to make and that every disciple since has had to make. Additionally, in the same gospel passage, we hear that Jesus’ “face is set toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53) as he entered the neighboring Samaritan towns. Jesus’ didn’t desire to go to Jerusalem for a holiday. He didn’t want to go there to pray in the temple. He wasn’t going to visit family and friends, either. He was going to accomplish his Father’s will: to be arrested, to suffer, and to die on the cross for all of humanity’s sins. Unless Jesus accepted this sacrifice asked of him by the Father, we never would have received atonement for our sins, and we’d never be able to experience the salvation which God longed to give us.
Being a laborer for the Kingdom also requires a readiness to serve 24/7. Being a Christian isn’t so much of a job, as it is a vocation. A job has a definite starting time and an anticipated ending time. A vocation, on the other hand, begins at baptism and continues throughout every minute of every day throughout each successive month and year, wherever we may happen to be and, with whomever we may happen to be, until we die. It requires a level of dedication that transcends all the activities of our lives and permeates all the decisions we make each day. It’s this kind of dedication that Jesus is looking for when he says in today’s gospel, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62) Once we’ve embarked upon our vocation, we must strive to be more faithful to it each day. And when we may happen to fail or to weaken in our resolve, it’s then that we must turn to the Lord and to the church for renewal, strength and encouragement to continue on.
Being a laborer for the Kingdom also involves making a commitment to offering whatever gifts and talents the Lord has given us to advance the Kingdom of God.
We see an example of not offering what one has, in today’s gospel, when the Samaritans choose not to offer their hospitality to Jesus. They choose not to receive him into their homes.
Maybe it was because of the rivalry between Samaritans and Jews. Maybe it was because his ultimate destination was Jerusalem and they would have preferred it to be Mount Gerizim. Whatever the reason, they chose not to act in kindness and generosity with what they had been given toward Jesus.
Sometimes we do the same, don’t we? Sometimes we rationalize away why we don’t need to get involved, why we’re justified in saying no to someone in need, or why we want to be picky about who will receive blessings from us and who won’t. At other times, the opposite mentality comes to the fore. We’re willing, but we just don’t think we have any gifts to share with anyone, in any meaningful way. Sometimes, we think others are far more talented, have far greater resources, and far more time than we do, and that they ought to be the first ones to commit to a particular, expressed need. Well, if we want to be a disciple of Christ, none of these arguments hold any water. Every one of us is called by virtue of our baptism to be laborers for the Kingdom in some capacity!
The church provides ample opportunities for us to do just that. Are you someone who has a love of the scriptures and wants to learn how to proclaim the Word of God with feeling, conviction and power? Then maybe God’s calling you to be a lector. Are you someone who’s friendly and outgoing, someone who enjoys meeting new people and welcoming them into our family of faith? Then maybe God’s calling you to be a minister of hospitality. Are you someone who’s able to be assertive, give good directions, and can greet your neighbor with a friendly smile? Then maybe God’s calling you to be an Usher. Are you someone who has a sensitivity to the poor and wants to help alleviate their struggles? They perhaps God’s calling you to get involved in the food bank ministry. These are just a few examples of ministries in the church that can express your baptismal commitment to being a laborer for the Kingdom and they’re good places to start. Remember, Jesus says to each one of us, “Follow me!” (Lk 9:59) What will be our response to his invitation?
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