June is the month for school graduations. In spite of their uncertain future, there are a confidence and buoyancy in young hearts that are always refreshing to parents and teachers. They remember the energy with which they themselves began their journey into the wide world.
In today’s readings, the theme of journey into the future begins with the first reading from the Book of Kings. Here we read that Elijah is tired out and wants to dire. So God allows him to retire. First, though, he must pass on his prophetic powers to young Elisha, son of a rich landowner. Dramatically, he throws his cloak around Elisha’s shoulders and tells him to leave everything and follow him. Reluctantly, he allows Elisha to bid goodbye to his family first. Elisha burns his plow and slaughters his livestock so that those who are dependent on him will be provided for. Then, Elisha’s journey begins.
In the Gospel, Jesus invites His followers to accompany Him on His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. It is a journey filled with the excitement of healings, miracles, and the rich wisdom of Jesus’ preaching to the people who eagerly crowd about Him. Jesus tries His best to warn His disciples of difficulties along the way. He Himself knows of the death that awaits Him in Jerusalem, as well as the final triumph of the Resurrection.
Jesus demands even more than Elijah, saying to His disciples, No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God. Nothing less than unconditional surrender of our wills, our goods, and any sinful attachments are required if we are to be true followers and friends of Jesus. Only this kind of discipleship will bring success to their mission.
How does one prepare for such a difficult journey? At the beginning of His mission, Jesus made a retreat in the desert. What is a retreat all about? A good retreat always asks three questions: a) Where have I come from? b) Where am I now? and c) Where am I going? Many people today make a retreat of a week or three days, or even just one full day. Each of us has been called by Jesus to follow Him on His difficult journey to the kingdom. How well have we done in getting rid of that baggage which hinders our full commitment? Summer is a good time to spend a day or more to ask ourselves those three crucial questions.
--Msgr. Paul Whitmore
(reprinted with permission of the author)
Image source: The Call of Elisha (below) & Elijah Taken to Heaven in a Chariot of Fire (above), cupola, Chapel of St. Joseph-des-Carmes, 6e arr., Paris, https://www.patrimoine-histoire.fr/Patrimoine/Paris/Paris-Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes.htm