The WORD in Other Words by Fr Magdaleno Fabiosa SVD (Philippines)
13 Sunday OT, 1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21, Gal 5:1, 13-18, Lk 9:51-62
No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God. To approximate an understanding of this saying of Jesus we have to put it in context. Jesus had just decided to journey to Jerusalem where he would carry out his mission (to suffer and die . . . that we may live). Some wanted to follow him, but he warned them that following him was a serious choice. He cautioned them because, as a human being, he knew that initial enthusiasm would not last. In fact, he just narrated the parable of the sower: ” The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the ones who receive the Word with joy, but because they have no roots, they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial.”
Jesus wants his disciples to follow him in a radical way. When Jesus calls us to follow him, and he calls everyone in different ways, he allows us to experience the beauty of being loved by God, for which it is worthwhile breaking with the past. But after the initial enthusiasm, the nostalgia for what we have left behind, and the influence of pervading values diametrically opposed to the new life that we have found, will take its toll. This is the problem that followers of Jesus face every day. On the one hand we want to live the kind of life the gospels have opened for us; but on the other, we give in to our weaknesses. The lure of our past life and our surroundings exert their own weight and pressure.
The gospel message today tells us to be coherent, persevering and faithful. If we have experienced the beauty of God‘s love then we also know that nothing is more contrary to it than spiritual laziness, compromise and half measures. There is nothing more contrary to this new life than a life lived only for oneself in selfishness and self-concern.
What concretely should we do? The 2nd Reading today from the Letter to the Galatians gives us concrete suggestions as to what to do. First: counteract self-centeredness by being of service to one‘s neighbor. The Letter to the Galatians says: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The second suggestion from Galatians is for us to live by the Spirit, which means not giving in to selfishness and laziness. We must be ready to say “no‘ to any form of temptation. However, saying “no” makes sense ONLY if we have said “yes” to what God wants of us. Following Jesus is very demanding. No wonder he cautioned those who wanted to follow him with these words: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God;” and that only those “who endure to the end will receive the reward.”