It’s interesting how the first and second readings today both use the word “yoke”. In the first reading from the Book of Kings, Elisha is plowing with twelve yokes of oxen. Obviously, he comes from a well-to-do family. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over Elisha. That must have been an indication to the young man that he was chosen to follow Elijah, as he asked to be able to say farewell to his parents. Elisha followed through by then slaughtering the oxen and cooking them and distributing the proceeds to his people. Then he was free to become the apprentice to Elijah. It is worth noting that Elisha was willing to give up everything, including enormous wealth, to follow the prophet.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he is telling them (and us) that Christ set us free and for us to “stand firm and do not submit to the yoke of slavery.” Slavery of what? We were slaves to our sinful nature. He goes on to clarify that “freedom” does not mean that we are allowed to do whatever we want without restrictions, as he clearly says, “But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”
In the world we live in today, it is so apparent to see this dichotomy of good versus evil. Matters of the flesh are pounded into us daily, through the media, especially social media, the entertainment industry and even in the political world. The mantra of our society seems to be that anything goes, and the weirder and more unnatural, the better. Anyone attempting to stand up against this onslaught is labelled a bigot or racist or homophobe.
Live by the Spirit
St. Paul provides us guidance to “live by the Spirit” and not to give in to the desires of the flesh. In case we do not already know, the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other. Freedom is not a license to sin. Rather, it is the ability to do what is right. Standing firm to the teachings of the church will serve us well, rather than giving in to the ways of the world.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus and his disciples are proceeding to Jerusalem, and people are coming up to Jesus and professing to follow him, with conditions attached, however. One wanted to bury his father; another wanted to say farewell to his family at home. Jesus knew that these were half-hearted attempts to follow him. They were not willing to abandon everything and give themselves fully to Christ. We too, are being called to discipleship daily, through the ordinariness of our lives, whether plowing in the fields, teaching in a classroom, or working in an office.
Are we willing to say “yes” to following Christ? What we know to be absolutely true is that our response to Jesus’ invitation involves us for the long haul and it will require sacrifice. We also know that his call, and our faithfulness to it, is totally liberating. It gives us vision; focuses our energies and opens us to give ourselves generously and freely to the kingdom which Christ came to proclaim.