A priest was invited by a couple to have a dinner with them together with their three children. While they were having a dinner, the eldest child announced that he wanted to be a priest. All of them were happy. Then the priest asked the boy why he wanted to be a priest. He replied: “Because every time a priest visits a house, the food is always good and delicious.”
The readings today are about our commitment to God’s call and mission. Jesus is traveling with his Apostles. They had left their families, livelihoods and possessions to be with Jesus. This is what Jesus expects of those who he calls to follow him. Jesus and his Apostles encounter three others who desire to follow him. Those three had already witnessed and heard what Jesus had done – curing the sick, Jesus gave power to expel demons and cure the sick when He sent His disciples to a mission, raising the dead to life and many others. So they said: “This is different. I will follow Him because everybody applauds Him, everybody appreciates Him, everybody says that He is a good man, everybody says that he is handsome, so I will follow Him.”
But Jesus said – if you want to follow me, follow without reservation. I want your total commitment. I want sacrifice. To the first Jesus makes it clear that to be his follower is not to have a comfortable and permanent place to live; the second has the condition of delaying until after he buries his father. One Scripture commentary speculates that the man’s father might not even have been dead, or near death, and that this was just a delay tactic. Jesus challenges him on his desire to follow, if he is to follow he must come immediately. The third wants to go back and give his farewells to family and friends. Jesus make the point that for those who desire to follow him it is a call to move forward, there is no turning back.
The call of the Apostles and the response to these three would-be followers makes it clear that to follow Jesus one must be willing to make a total commitment. For those called to Priesthood and the numerous forms of Consecrated Life this means a willingness to serve where needed, and to do so in a simple, humble, and committed manner.
How do you honor your marriage commitment? As in the case of Elisha and the apostles, our commitment becomes our life. But today, more than ever, people make commitments too easily and then break them. This is the age of the lack of true commitment. The problem today is not that people are living together without being married; the problem is that they do not have the courage to make the commitment of marriage. In recent years, the age of marriage has increased by more than three years in the West, that is, more than 10%. Modern people find many excuses for delaying marriage: “Well, let’s get good jobs and financial security first.” Another familiar excuse is: “I want to be free to come and go as I please!” Another excuse for delaying marriage is: “Let’s live together first. We’ll see if we’re compatible!” But the fact is that the longer unmarried couples live together, the more they experience their incompatibility!
How about our faith life? How many excuses some people give for not coming for weekend Sunday Masses: We are vacationing, kids have succor practice, I had house full of people this weekend etc.
Excuses we give, prevent us from moving forward to the place where God wants us to be. In the gospel Jesus is unwilling to accept any excuse: not going home to bury your father; not saying farewell to your family. No excuse is acceptable. Now we could be distracted by debating the reasonableness of Jesus’ stance. But this is not the point of the gospel. The gospel challenges us to admit that our excuses hold us back from the place God wants us to be.
If we build our life around excuses, we will end up going nowhere. So how do we move beyond excuses? Not on our own. The only way we can move through and beyond our excuses is to turn to Christ and ask for help. The way forward is not by depending more on ourselves, but trusting in the God who loves us.
Today, Christ is calling us to himself. He asks us to move forward to deeper satisfaction and a fuller life. We can always come up with reasons not to move, to stay exactly where we are. That is why we need to believe in God’s love and let that love free us. Let us believe in God’s love for us so that through that love we can find the freedom to do God’s will—without excuses.