1 July 2007. The 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 9, 16-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5, 1, 13-15; Luke 5, 51-62
There is a stage in our life when life was volatile, indecisive and vaporous. This is the time when we live by ‘playing everything by ear.’ Buhay-binata o buhay dalaga. The life of those who are unattached. This is the time when we were indefinite. We say, “bahala na”, “whatever”, and “anything goes”. This is probably the time of studies and a little sometime after graduation.
When Elijah was looking for a successor, he found Elisha, not in the schools of the prophet, but in the fields; not reading, praying or sacrificing, but plowing and tilling the field. I think it is interesting to know how many great men in the Bible who were called into some special ministry after demonstrating some ability or willingness to work. Moses was pasturing the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. David was tending the sheep of his father. Peter, James and John were fishing. Paul had a trade making nets. And Jesus was a carpenter trained by Joseph. There is a point, like all of these Biblical characters, when we are plucked from what we normally do, and are asked to commit to a higher goal in life.
This is the time when our parents begin to ask when we are to settle; or when lovers propose marriage. And when one is asked, point blank, one has to choose. This is the time of “throwing the mantle,” as Elijah did to Elisha. The mantle was the official garment of a prophet, and thus marked automatically, a man as a prophet of God. Throwing the mantle over the shoulders of Elisha was a symbolic act denoting his summons to the office of the prophet. The choice ends the volatility, indefinitiveness, and vaporousness; our vocation in life begins to take shape. The choice individuates or defines us. When one decides to marry, then his future life becomes clearer. When one decides to become a priest, his future also becomes definite.
The Gospel tells us that if we would like to follow Jesus, we have to leave everything behind. The oxen and the implements, the wooden ploy with the yokes, represented the tools of Elisha’s trade. It is the means and basis of his past life. By burning them, Elisha declares his commitment to the Lord. Likewise, when we finally decide when to settle down, we are burning bridges. We are showing everyone that we now have a new commitment and a new set of priorities. We show the determination never to look back. The past is there for us to learn from. We are not called to live in the past. We are called to move on. To be stuck in the past is to refuse progress and development. There is no way but to move forward; hoping that one day we get to find our calling.