By: Rev. Fr. Ameh Sylvanus
Readings: 1Kings 19:16, 19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62
Theme: Don’t Look Back
- There is a Nollywood blockbuster movie released in 1999 that was titled Igodo. In the movie, seven young men where sent by a community into an evil forest to get a knife with which they would cut down a tree that stood as the witness to a curse placed on the community. Before they departed, the Chief priest of the community told them that they were embarking on a perilous journey, hence, no matter what they think they see or hear, they must not look back, for if they do, they will surely die. Indeed, some looked back, and surely, they died.
- In sprint races, athletes are told not to look back but ahead at the finish line because if they do, they may lose the race. When a Cheetah is chasing a prey, no matter what happens, no matter the distractions around it, it focuses on d prey and never looks back or sideways; if it does, the prey may escape by just a split second. In our spiritual journey too, Jesus tells us not to look back or sideways, for if we do, we risk losing heaven. Today’s readings all talk about calls to different people to serve God: In Reading 1, Elisha is called to succeed Elijah as prophet; Saint Paul tells us in the Second Reading that God has called and is still calling us to spiritual freedom and a life of holiness and in the gospel, Jesus called some people to be his disciples.
- These three dimensions of calls in our readings are the same dimensions of calls that ring out to us even today: (i) We are called to be God’s prophets, witnessing to truth and justice in the world; (ii) We are called to be people who strive to live in holiness and (iii) We are also called to be disciples of Jesus who will carry his message of hope and salvation to people everywhere.
- But Jesus tells us in the gospel that his call to us is full of challenges and there are sacrifices to be made, therefore, we must weigh our response carefully. This explains his response, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nets, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head” when one man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Thinking carefully about accepting God’s call to us is very important because it is a response that we must never go back on. Once we have said “Yes” to God, we must never look backwards or sideways. We read in Matthew 14:22-32, the event of Jesus walking on the water. When Peter asked if he could come to Jesus, walking on the water too, to confirm if truly it was Jesus, Jesus bade him to. Peter walked on water until, as verse 30 tells us, he began to sink because he looked sideways and, removing his eyes from Jesus, he noticed the waves and became frightened. Every time we take our eyes from Jesus, from our spiritual goal, we stand the risk of sinking, either under sin or under the pressures of life.
- Our second reading also says we must never look back to where we have come from on our spiritual journey. God located our eyes in the front of our heads so that to make progress, we look ahead, and not behind. You can never get to your destinations if you keep your focus behind you. There are many believers today who had lived very bad lives in the past, but now, they have chosen to change and serve God. To such people and to all of us, the word of God says, “Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). This means not to go back to the old life of sin left behind, for “everyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creature; old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17). The only time we are permitted to look at our past lives is to learn something on how to avoid past mistakes; other than that, don’t look back! Jesus says in our gospel reading that “Anyone who put his hands on the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.” So, child of God, don’t look back! Very importantly, today, God is calling all of us to be his disciples and to live in holiness. Will we answer promptly like Elisha in the first reading or we will make excuses like the people in the gospel?