Are we able to slaughter the oxen?
By Glen Argan
For Elisha, turning back was no longer an option. A wealthy man who received a call from the prophet Elijah, Elisha slaughtered his twelve yoke of oxen, boiled the flesh and fed the people. He closed the door on his past and became Elijah’s servant. His possessions and his material security were gone forever.
So, where are we? Are we churchgoers or do we follow Jesus? It used to be thought that those two options were one and the same. But today, in our emphasis on Scripture, we know that Jesus asks everything of his disciples. There is no mention of a half-hearted disciple.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. He removed everything from his awareness except his journey to the holy city. So too with those who wanted to follow him. One eagerly said he would follow Jesus anywhere. Jesus responded that he himself had no place to live, no possessions, no material security. Do you still want to come?
Others responded to Jesus’ call half-heartedly. “First, I have to bury my father,” said one. “First, I have to say farewell to my family,” said another. Jesus’ response was uncompromising: “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In the Second Reading, St. Paul issues a challenge regarding how we use our freedom, our precious freedom. “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love becomes slaves to one another.” How we love our freedom! Often, we use it for recreation, personal travel or other forms of self-indulgence when God is asking more of us. What is that “more”? We must clear our spiritual ears so we can hear the call.
We must be prepared to slaughter the oxen, to become slaves to one another. What that means will differ from person to person. In the eyes of the world, the call we receive may not seem important. We may even be asked to step down from a position of apparent importance to assume a humbler role.
But the eyes of the world do not matter. What matters is that our work is dedicated to glorifying God. If that is our focus, we will contribute to the kingdom. However, if our work is of importance to us because it increases the possibilities for self-indulgence then, no matter how great it appears from a worldly perspective, it will be a barren fig tree. Our goal is to be faithful in all things.
In the end, we may not have to make a dramatic reversal in our occupation. That may not be our call. But Jesus surely wants us to make each day an offering to God, to allow God to transform our routine duties and creative actions with the fullness of his divine presence. In one way or another, we will be called to slaughter the oxen.
Sunday Readings for June 30, 2019, the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19.16b, 19-21 | Psalm 16 | Galatians 5.1, 13-18 | Luke 9.51-62
(See more articles like this at On the Threshold)