“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Psalm 19 (18), 8-14
The law of God source of formation
The precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern his errors?
Clear thou me from hidden faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,
my rock and my redeemer.
O God, who through the grace of adoption
chose us to be children of light,
grant, we pray,
that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error
but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21
The LORD said to Elijah:
“You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah,
as prophet to succeed you.”
Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat,
as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen;
he was following the twelfth.
Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.
Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said,
“Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,
and I will follow you.”
Elijah answered, “Go back!
Have I done anything to you?”
Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them;
he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh,
and gave it to his people to eat.
Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 436 The word “Christ” comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed”. It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that “Christ” signifies. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets.1 This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively.2 It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet.3 Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.
1 Cf. Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 16:1, 12-13; I Kings 1:39; 19:16.
2 Cf. Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26-27.
3 Cf. Is 11:2; 61:1; Zech 4:14; 6:13; Lk 4:16-21.
God’s ways are indeed mysterious to us. Elijah, whom he had sent to Israel (the breakaway northern kingdom) did heroic work there to preserve the knowledge of the true God. It was a period when pagan infiltration was at its strongest under King Achab and his wicked wife, Queen Jezebel, a pagan from Tyre. God called a successor for Elijah, who carried on his great work and it is due to these two men of God that the ordinary people of Israel preserved, more or less, the true faith. This was so, notwithstanding the efforts of their rulers during the ninth century B.C. to introduce paganism.
Why does God allow evil in the world he created? Why does he create men whom he knew would spread their evil influence? Through their example and their power, which they so often succeed in acquiring, they make the eternal salvation of thousands, even of millions of their fellowman, most difficult, if not impossible.
This is a question which has troubled the minds of many down through the ages. It would be so easy for God not to create men whom he knows will lead evil lives and cause so many others to follow them in their evil ways. Would not our religious life today, and our faithful service of God, be so much easier and better if there were not so many practical (and to a less harmful degree, theoretical) atheists amongst us, and so many promoters of sin and its occasions?
Yet, any sane, sound-thinking man will have to admit that surely the all-intelligent God knows what is best for his world. Man has intelligence and free will, the gifts of God which raise him above all other earthly creatures. Yet he is liable to abuse these gifts and offend his Creator. The animals do not sin, because they lack these gifts. Neither can they know God, nor have they the possibility of enjoying an eternal heaven in his company. If God denied us intelligence and free will — the only way of preventing sin — then we, like the animals, could never earn or enjoy heaven.
Furthermore, would our religious life, our respect for God and for his laws be really better and more sincere, if we had no opposition? The example of countries and peoples who suffered persecutions from the opponents of the faith in the past (and this is true of parts of our world still today) would seem to prove the opposite. The early Church spread rapidly through the Roman Empire, not only in spite of violent persecutions, but because of them. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”
Today we live in a world which seems in theory and in practice to be moving more and more away from God. Unfortunately, as always, some of the leaders of this secularism and this disrespect for and negation of God’s rights and claims, are or were men in positions of authority. This makes the scandal and the evil infection all the more widespread. However, we still trust in the all-wise God who knows all the thoughts and the doings of men–he has his purpose in allowing this state of affairs to exist in his Church and in the world. We shall understand it in the next life. During our years here below let us do our own part, and then we can safely leave the rest to God.
Elijah and Elisha, and the thousands of others which their active apostolate influenced, might never have been saints in heaven today, if God had not permitted paganism to be introduced into Israel by its sinful rulers. Our modern semi-paganism, too, will produce more active love for and service of God amongst the faithful and make saints of many who might otherwise have led a lukewarm, half-hearted Christian life.
God preserved the Chosen People of the Old Testament in spite of the apostasy and wickedness of many of them, until the time was right to send his Son amongst us. He will preserve his Church, the kingdom of his Son, Christ, notwithstanding the apostasy and opposition of so many he wished to save, until the last of the human race has left this earth. Let us do our part not only for our own salvation, but also for the salvation of those very ones who are opposing God and his Church. We can safely leave the outcome to God. It is in his all-wise, all-powerful hands.
Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.”
You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Gal 5:1, 13-18
Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.
I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.1
CCC 1741 Liberation and salvation. By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. “For freedom Christ has set us free.”2 In him we have communion with the “truth that makes us free.”3 The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”4 Already we glory in the “liberty of the children of God.”5
CCC 2515 Etymologically, “concupiscence” can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the “flesh” against the “spirit.”6 Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man’s moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins.7
CCC 2744 Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin.8 How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?
Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. .. For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.9
Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.10
CCC 2819 “The kingdom of God [is] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”11 The end-time in which we live is the age of the outpouring of the Spirit. Ever since Pentecost, a decisive battle has been joined between “the flesh” and the Spirit.12
Only a pure soul can boldly say: “Thy kingdom come.” One who has heard Paul say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies,” and has purified himself in action, thought and word will say to God: “Thy kingdom come!”13
1 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.
2 Gal 5:1.
3 Cf. In 8:32.
4 2 Cor 17.
5 Rom 8:21.
6 Cf. Gal 5:16, 17, 24; Eph 2:3.
7 Cf. Gen 3:11; Council of Trent: DS 1515.
8 Cf. Gal 5:16-25.
9 St. John Chrysostom, De Anna 4, 5: PG 54, 666.
10 St. Alphonsus Liguori, Del gran Mezzo della preghiera.
11 Rom 14:17.
12 Cf. Gal 5:16-25.
13 St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. myst. 5, 13: PG 33, 1120A; cf. Rom 6:12.
We are no longer troubled by Judaizers or by anyone trying to force us to keep the practices of the Mosaic law. This trouble lasted for only one generation in the early Church. We are, however, surrounded on all sides today by the other seduction against which St. Paul warns us–the call to give “free rein to the flesh.”
Freedom from all authority, freedom to do as we will with our lives, freedom from any restraint, divine or human, is the new gospel of the permissive society. But in fact it is not new. It is the old paganism of the pre-Christian era in an even more pernicious form. The old pagans had respect for their gods. They had respect for their social laws and for social authority. The new pagans have no gods but themselves. There are no social laws or no authority, which they respect. They are the supreme arbiters of all their actions; they are responsible to nobody or to no power but to their own selves.
This insidious doctrine has not come from the peoples of Africa and Asia who have not yet heard the Christian message. It comes from countries that once were Christian but which gradually lost the sense of Christianity and the true meaning of its good news. There are millions of men and women today who are ignorant of, or else ignore, their true purpose in life. The only meaning they evidently find for being a few short years on this earth is to get all the pleasure, power and plenty they can out of it. That pleasure, power and plenty, however, is very restricted and limited. Their philosophy, if it could possibly be called that, must of necessity lead once more to the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest, until in a short while one more strong than themselves comes along.
A permissive society is not a society in any sense of the word. A society means a group of people living in harmony, working together for the common good of each and all its members. Rules must be drawn up and obeyed. Leaders with the right to interpret these rules and to command their execution must be in command. Each individual’s person and, rights must be respected and protected, regardless of age or position. While democracy and freedom of speech for each member is to be commended, the obligation on each member of the society to think seriously and cogitate carefully on all the implications of all decisions to be taken is all the greater.
This true form of democracy, and freedom to express considered and carefully weighed opinions, is not the norm that governs the agitators for the permissive society. They want freedom for themselves only. They do not care if others have to suffer as long as they get their own freedom to do what they will. Hence their advocacy of pre-marital sex relations, facile divorce, abortion and euthanasia, among other crimes, against human society. The unborn, the weak, the old, are hindrances to their pleasure and plenty, and so must be eliminated!
Needless to say, St. Paul, when warning his converts to keep the animal-man in check, could not foresee such incredible abuses of human reasoning, and such a depth of selfishness even in animal-man. He is reminding us Christians that we must be an example to our fellowman in the society in which we live, and that example must be shown especially in our real love for our fellowman. We must be ready to help our neighbor in his need, not only when doing so is not too inconvenient, but even when it puts us to grave inconvenience. We must do for him what we would wish to be done to ourselves. We would all surely be convinced that the greatest help a neighbor could give us would be to put us back on the right road to eternal life if we had strayed from the path.
Many of our neighbors today are in dire need of help to find their true bearings on the sea of this life. We can and must help them by prayer, and ask God to give them light and direction. We can sometimes get in a quiet word of advice at the opportune moment. We can and we must openly express our total rejection of any and every suggested legislation proposed and sponsored by the permissive groups denying the right of the weaker members. Such legislation would be destructive of all rational human society. Rationality will prevail. God still rules his world.
When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;1 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”2 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.3 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.4 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.5
1 Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.
2 Mt 5:3.
3 Cf. Mt 11:25.
4 Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2:23-26; Jn 4:6 1; 19:28; Lk 9:58.
5 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.
Among the various incidents gathered together by Luke in these verses of his gospel we have read today, perhaps the lesson that should strike all of us most is his insistence on total dedication on the part of his true followers to his service. We cannot be for Christ and against him at the same time. “He who gathers not with me, scatters,” he himself said. We are followers of Christ since our baptism. In theory this is the fact, but in practice how real is this fact for many of us? Are we really following Christ during the twenty-four hours of every day of our lives? Are our eyes always fixed on the true future which awaits us? Are we prepared to plow a straight furrow no matter what snags or obstacles may be on our way? How few of us can answer “yes, we are,” to these straight questions?
We have, of course, explanations ready at hand for our forgetfulness, our laxity, our earthly entanglements. We are tied down by family and a hundred other earthly cares. Our days, our weeks, our year are so fully occupied that we find it hard to spare even a short hour on Sundays to give to God. This answer shows a misunderstanding of what Christ demands of us. He knows his followers must live for a few years in this world and must, for the most part, struggle to earn a living for themselves during that period. But it is by living this earthly life properly, by being loyal to spouse and family, by earning one’s living honestly, by living not only peacefully but helpfully with one’s neighbors, that we are living our Christian life.
The man who keeps within the limits that Christian law lays down for him, while working his way through this life, is a true follower of Christ and is on the road to heaven, plowing a straight furrow. He may not have much time for prayer, and each morning he may rush off to work. But God understands half-sentences and even single words. At night he needs recreation and relaxation, and God does not expect long prayers from him–if he has worked honestly and has given the example of true Christianity to his fellow-workers, he has honored God all day. He has prayed well. A few words of thanks to God, a request for pardon for all the mistakes made since morning, before lying down to sleep at night, will give such a man nothing to fear should God call him to judgment during the night hours.
If we only realized how reasonable God’s demands are, and how every demand he makes on us is for our own benefit and not his, we would be a little more generous in our response to his calls. He does not need us–we need him. We could slip in a few more short prayers during the day; we could find more time to take a true interest in the eternal and less in the temporal. We could manage to give a helping hand and a word of encouragement to a needy neighbor. Yes, all of us could do a lot more to show to Christ and to the world that we are following him gladly and honestly. We are not looking back while plowing our Christian furrow.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.
The Destiny of Those Who were Called
The destiny of those who were “called” would henceforth be closely bound to that of Jesus. An apostle is one who is sent, but even before that he is an “expert” on Jesus. This very aspect is highlighted by the Evangelist John from Jesus’ very first encounter with the future apostles… The meeting takes place on the banks of the Jordan. The presence of the future disciples, who, like Jesus, also came from Galilee to receive the baptism administered by John, sheds light on their spiritual world. They were men who were waiting for the kingdom of God, anxious to know the Messiah whose coming had been proclaimed as imminent. It was enough for John the Baptist to point out Jesus to them as the Lamb of God, to inspire in them the desire for a personal encounter with the Teacher. The lines of Jesus’ conversation with the first two future Apostles are most expressive. To his question “What do you seek?”, they replied with another question: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus answer was an invitation: “Come and see.” Come, so that you will be able to see. The Apostles’ adventure began as an encounter of people who are open to one another. For the disciples, it was the beginning of a direct acquaintance with the Teacher, seeing where he was staying and starting to get to know him. Indeed, they were not to proclaim an idea, but to witness to a person. Before being sent out to preach, they had to “be” with Jesus, establishing a personal relationship with him. On this basis, evangelization was to be no more than the proclamation of what they felt and an invitation to enter into the mystery of communion with Christ.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
The Prayer At The Foot Of The Cross
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
I will go to the altar of God.
To God who gives joy to my youth.
Judge me, O God,
and take up my cause against the nation that is not holy.
Free me from the unjust and deceitful man.
For You, O God, are my strength,
why have You cast me off?
And why do I walk in sorrow,
while the enemy troubles me?
Send forth Your light and Your truth,
they have led me,
and brought me to Your holy hill,
and to Your dwelling.
I will go to the altar of God,
to God who gives joy to my youth.
To You, O God, my God,
I will give praise upon the harp,
why are you sad, O my soul?
And why do you trouble me?
Hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
the salvation of my countenance and my God.
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now and ever shall be,
world without end.