Today, the scriptures present a variety of choices. In each case, someone was asked to make a decision. In the first reading (cf 1 Kings 19:16-21), the holy man Elijah invited Elisha to follow him, but Elisha was free to choose whether he would accept Elisha's invitation, or whether he would remain in the fields (cf 1 Kings 19:19). As enticing as it might have been for Elisha to accept the invitation to follow Elijah, he managed to present an excuse, a reason why he could not immediately turn away from his former life (cf 1 Kings 19:20). How often does the Lord invite us to follow him, to set out on a new adventure? And how often do we respond to God's invitations with excuses?
The gospel passages are filled with such stories. They often begin with the details of an encounter between Jesus and what seem to be ordinary folk. In today's gospel passage for instance, Jesus set out for Jerusalem (cf Lk 9:51). Jesus is constantly setting out, travelling with us as we make our way from day to day, from one adventure to another. Each day, he sends us ahead of him (Lk 9:52). We enter into people's lives so that we can invite others to prepare their hearts to welcome Jesus, but each person, including us, is free to welcome him
or not (Lk 9:53). How many of our own family and friends have we invited to welcome Jesus? When others appear to refuse our invitations, we can often react like the disciples. When ... James and John saw it, they said: 'Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?'
(Lk 9:54), but it is not up to us to judge. Our task is to create the circumstances so that others can become aware of the Lord's invitation. It's up to each person individually, including us, to make the choice to respond.
Human hearts can be slow to respond to the Lord's invitation, but sometimes we can also be overly zealous. As they were going along the road, someone said to Jesus, 'I will follow you wherever you go
(Lk 9:57), but when the enthusiasm is not the fruit of God's invitation, we can also get ourselves into trouble. This is why we must always take time to discern, to open our ears and our hearts in prayer and to do our very best to listen so that we can be sure that God is calling. If the call is not from God, then the invitation is not authentic, and following down a misguided road will lead us into an adventure that will tire us out rather than give us life.
Along the way to Jerusalem, Jesus called a number of others to follow him. In some cases, they truly wanted to but they found themselves tied down to other responsibilities (cf Lk 9:59-62). It does happen at times that when Jesus calls, we feel as though we must leave everything and everyone behind, but most often, when Jesus calls, the adventure he has prepared for us is meant not only for our good but also as a source of inspiration and an invitation for others to come along with us. If the call to follow Jesus is authentic, there will never be a need to say farewell to those at home
(Lk 9:61); rather, we should invite them to join us on the journey.
As Saint Paul explained to the early Christian community at Galacia, we have been called to freedom, but we should never use this freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but rather through love to become slaves to one another
(Gal 5:13). Jesus is inviting us to be living witnesses of his presence today, in this community or wherever we may travel, and each of us must make a choice. Choose to accept the invitation to follow Jesus. If we do, he will teach us how to love as he loves us, so that we in turn can love one another.