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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR JUNE 26 | Letting go of what holds us back

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time | When we follow Jesus’ call, we take up that mission and leave all the rest behind

Many of us have experienced the rejection felt by Jesus’ messengers in the Gospel for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We try to do something good, and our efforts are rejected wholeheartedly. Even though our original motivations might be good, we’re sometimes tempted to get revenge on the ones who have rejected or hurt us. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach His disciples, and in turn all of us listening to this Gospel, an incredibly important lesson for life.

If the disciples are being true to their word that they will follow Jesus wherever He leads them, then they cannot afford to hold on to the past. It’s the same way with us. If we are to follow Jesus, putting our hand to the plow and not looking back, we must let go of what has happened to tend the plow that takes us in the direction Jesus wants us to go.

In the Gospel, Jesus is not accepting normal excuses, even the most serious ones. His disciples plead with Him to let them have time to bury the dead, and He says no. They also plead with Him to allow them to say goodbye to their families, and He says no. Those might not be the excuses we use to keep us from studying the plow that Jesus has given us, but it might be important for us to recognize the excuses for what they are.

What keeps us from quickly forgiving those who have rejected us so that we can move on? What is it that allows our fear of the future to keep us buried in the past? Even more importantly, what possessions or powers of influence have we placed ahead of accepting the invitation that Jesus gives us to move forward for Him? Do we use the excuses of vacations, sports and festivals to divert us from the work that Jesus has placed before us?

The reading from the book of Kings gives us a concrete example of what it means for a person to take up the mission that God has given them and leave all the rest behind. The prophet Elijah is sent by God to anoint Elisha to be the next prophet. The prophet Elijah is very subtle in singling out Elisha. He takes off his cloak and throws it over Elisha’s shoulders, knowing what effect that would have on him. Elisha accepts the call from God and destroys any of what would hold him back. He breaks up the plow, cuts up the oxen, roasts the flesh and has nothing to hold him back. He sets aside the past so that he can follow Elijah to become the next prophet.

As we move out of the Easter season, past some very special celebrations these past two weekends and into Ordinary Time, let us use this time to listen more carefully to the invitation to Jesus giving to each of us and to do whatever we can to let go of what holds us back so that we can walk forward with the task that Jesus gives us.

Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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