Lk 9.51-62                    1Kings  19.16-21                  Gal 5.13-18

Now it’s back to Ordinary Time, with environmental green as our liturgical colour. We can’t, nor should we, escape the call to discipleship, as it’s the ongoing theme throughout the Church’s year, and the demands are not easy.  They might sound simple, but don’t we know that day to day life can weigh us down with pressures and routine to follow, without much choice. But then again, that’s life, isn’t it?  We do need to continually look beyond ourselves, not forgetting to look after ourselves as well.  There is a balance required in our lives.

Last week we reflected on the Bread of Life, or, Bread for the Broken, as Eucharist is well described, something to strengthen us spiritually as we face up to the challenges.  Now we are confronted with the practical issues of what discipleship means, in practice, in our daily lives.

There is a key turning point here, as Jesus faces his final journey to Jerusalem, after his diverse Galilean ministry.  There is still a way to go, but his destiny is clear in his own mind, as he resolutely moves forward, first towards a place of hostility, the Samaritan village, where the locals were not welcoming, as opposed to the Samaritan village in John’s Gospel (Jn 4.39-42), where they are very happy to greet Jesus with a warm welcome, and take to heart what he has to say to them.  What is clear is that Jesus is open to all comers, with no exclusions, apart from those who will not open their hearts and minds to listen to his words of faith and wisdom.  And he’s certainly not going to have them condemned or punished out of hand. They need time for another chance, and it’s consistent with his theme of forgiveness for even enemies.

The ensuing words of Jesus sound unreasonably harsh, and virtually impossible to fulfil, as we know it’s important, even necessary, to be concerned and involved with burying the dead.  This was highlighted even more during our time of COVID lockdown, where only very limited numbers could attend funerals of loved ones in person.  It is essential to mourn and to support each other in times of grief and loss. So let’s see Jesus’ call here as a firm reminder to get on with life afterwards, and not to wallow in self-pity and despair.

As for the image of the plough (plow in American), we are reminded that back then, there was no stump-jump yet invented, and that it required a very steady hand to hold the plough, whilst trying to control unruly oxen with the other hand, so they say!  Again, it’s a reminder to focus on what is important, rather than to be distracted by the trivia around us.  The job at hand is to be a faithful follower of Jesus, and that requires primary attention.  It’s not really a good idea nor respectful not to go and say goodbye to the old folks at home, and keep them in the loop!!  Think of the all the angst, anger and trouble it would cause if you didn’t do so!

As Paul writes to Galatians today, reiterating the primary command of Jesus: “Love your neighbour as yourself”, guided by the Spirit.  It is all very well to rejoice in freedom, but not without accepting the personal responsibilities which come with it. The freedom of the Gospel is a freedom to serve others, and to conscientiously make decisions for the benefit of the community, without a selfish or self-indulgent focus.  It’s obviously not a freedom to do whatever we like, as some might have liked to think!

And now, on the practical grass roots side of things, yesterday, finally,  all at once, I was able to celebrate Mass for the feast of Sacred Heart for our Year 3 to 6’s here at St Therese’s Primary School, and then at Ave Maria College for the whole school, students and staff, for the first time in well over 2 years.  Their focus was on Jesus’ message, expressed by Paul, writing to Corinthians, that “God loves a cheerful giver”, “For it is in giving that we receive”,  and that there are unsought rewards for those who have that positive attitude of generosity of heart and spirit.

What impressed me was that in both liturgies, there was a focus on practical action, in response to the Gospel as a call to service,  with our primary school raising funds and gifts of food, in particular, for the Vinnies’ food van which goes out nightly to feed the homeless and hungry, in areas of the western suburbs.

As for Ave Maria, they had students speaking of what they described as “the feeling of joy helping others through their hardships”,  sharing their experiences of supporting “Ukraine Refugees Casual for a Cause Day” and their “Mission Action Day Walkathon”, with a “Walk around the Maribyrnong” raising funds for Ave’s sister school in Timor-Leste.  Also,  a group of young ladies “participated in refugee tutoring at St Albans Community Hub”, where, in their own words, they “got to meet students from all different backgrounds with different stories and work with them to finish their homework. After everyone had finished their homework, we got to play games.”

I then shared briefly my own experiences, from  when I was a student at Monash Uni in the early 1970’s, I joined a social group where we wore badges, with the motto “Be in SIn”, short for “Be in Social Involvement”, where we would visit migrant hostels and children’s homes, to try and do something useful apart from enjoying university life and pursuing our studies.  It provided a bit of balance in looking beyond our own interests and activities.  It was interesting to me that many of our group were from Catholic backgrounds, and had a strong sense of social justice and community service, so the Gospel message had somehow sunk in, even if many were not too formally connected with Church at that stage of their lives. But we were also a happy social group of friends, so the rewards came in multiple ways, and many of the friendships have endured over the next 40+ years, as we moved on in different directions in our own lives.

And there was the CEO “Sleepout” to support the work of Vinnies, in the broader community scene, raising over $9  million dollars, just this last week,  highlighting the need for more public housing and the plight of the homeless and victims of domestic violence in our own society, where the needs are real.

Such are some practical and hopeful ways to move forward together as faithful Christian disciples, as we celebrate and are nourished by Eucharist together.

john hannon                                                                                   26th  June  2022

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