posted on June 30, 2013 20:55
Homily: Deacon Terry Ellerman
Blessed Sacrament Parish
June 30, 2013 - 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
10 AM Service
Our readings this morning talk about freedom and discipleship. In the first reading from the Book of Kings, we see Elijah, the great prophet who is sent by God to Elisha, to tell Elisha that he wants him to be a prophet. Elijah finds Elisha in the field and he is plowing with twelve oxen. Now, we need to stop for a moment. In Biblical times, if you had one ox you were a pretty wealthy man. He was plowing with twelve oxen, which means by today's standards, he was a multi-multi-millionaire of the time.
But when Elijah came and put his cloak and his mantle on Elisha, Elisha followed him. Which means he left everything he had to be a prophet.
Now I think we know being a prophet is not the greatest of jobs in the world.
It's nice that you are favored by God, but when you are the spokesman for God, it means Jesus is sending you to tell the people, “You're not doing this right. And you're doing that wrong.” So, Elisha gave up a lot when he agreed to be a prophet and follow God. But he did it.
Then, in our Gospel reading, we have Jesus headed for Jerusalem. Luke is all about the journey. He is all about Jerusalem. So in this Chapter Nine, and in the next ten chapters, he talks about Jesus going to Jerusalem. And Jerusalem is like a magnet to Jesus. It is drawing him to Jerusalem because that is where Jesus is going to fulfill what his Father has asked him to do - to suffer, to die, and to rise.
How many of us, if we were Elisha, would leave our oxen and go? How many of us today, in our world, would leave everything we have to totally follow Christ?
Here is a true story about a woman by the name of Ann Millar and her husband, Richard. Ann was from a very, very wealthy family. At the age of 19, she married Richard Miller, who came from a very wealthy family as well. They had everything and anything that you can imagine. They had a home that overlooked San Francisco Bay. They sailed on yachts, they went on trips, they did anything and everything they wanted to do.
Their friends were the rich and the famous people. They were also very good Catholics. They lived a very good life and had ten children: five boys and five girls. As they progressed through their lives, they said, “Let's make a pact.” And the pact is, “When one of us dies, the other one will either go into a Trappist monastery, or the other person will go to a Carmelite monastery. And we will give up all the wealth we have and live the rest of our life that way.”
Well, in 1984 Richard died. True to their agreement, Ann spent the next five years getting rid of all the wealth that they had. Obviously, a lot of it went to their ten children, but a great deal also went to the church and to the poor. At the end of that fifth year when everything was in good shape, she threw a gigantic and gala party. All the rich and famous were there - 800 people. At the party she announced, “Tomorrow I am going to go to Chicago and enter the Carmelite monastery in Des Plaines.”
And that's what she did.
I don't know if you know much about the Carmelite Sisters, but it is a cloistered order. They take a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience. Once you go there you never leave. When you are there your life is spent either in prayer, work, or helping in the gardens. You can talk with each other one or two hours a day, and you are limited as to how many visitors can come see you within a year. When visitors come, there is a bar between you and the visitor so you can never touch the other person.
Some said, “She'll never make it. She's too bossy.” That's what her kids said. But five years later she professed her vows and became Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity. And that's where she still is today.
I tell this story about Ann Richards. And I tell the story of Elisha leaving. And the truth is probably most of us will never the wealth that Ann Richards, or Elisha, had. But it doesn't really make any difference. Because the question is, are we willing to give up something to follow Christ? Are we willing to be Christ to one another?
Discipleship is all about being willing to move from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. It's about us looking at our selfishness and saying, “What can we do to be more Christlike?”
I'm going to ask questions, but don't raise your hands.
The first question is, “How many in this room are selfish?” I am guessing, if you are honest, you will be like me and say, “I am.” We are selfish in lots of different ways. It would be nice if we could get rid of all the selfishness we have, but that is probably not a possibility. But we can get rid of some of the selfishness we have.
By virtue of our baptism, we are disciples of Christ. We are sent to spread the good news of Christ. We are to be Christ to one another in word and in deed. There is nothing wrong with material things. There is nothing wrong with money. But the question is: Do we use the gifts that we have to be disciples of Christ to help one another?
As we approach the altar of God this morning to receive the greatest gift we could receive, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, let us ask ourselves: What can we do this week as we look and examine areas where we are selfish?
What can we do to stop a little of that selfishness to make our relationship better with our spouse, our parents, with our families, or with one another?
We truly are called to be Christ to one another - because indeed we are disciples of Christ.
Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.