BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu

In our Gospel passage this morning, we are presented with three different cases of vocation. First, a man came to Jesus himself to declare his intention to follow him. “I will follow you wherever you go.” This is the classic case of a person who is calling God. Jesus knowing his heart knew that this man had a materialistic conception of ministry. His desire to follow Jesus is no different from the aspiration to become a doctor or a lawyer or some other profession.

Jesus wanted this man to realize ministry is different, his response to him was this: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” In other words, “If you want to follow me, you must take the vow of poverty! And live it out.” The work of God is not a comfortable job or some sort of career!”

Then comes the second case. It was Jesus himself who said to this man: “Follow me.” This second case is clearly an example of what happens when it is God himself that is calling a person to ministry.

Oftentimes, it happens like a shock and one’s immediate response is to give a thousand and one excuses why one considers himself unworthy to say yes. Virtually all the biblical characters who were called gave excuses. Gideon said he was too small, Moses said he stammered, Jeremiah said he was only a youth, Isaiah said he had unclean lips and so on and so on.

This second man in today’s Gospel passage begged for permission to go and bury his father first, but Jesus said: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” It didn’t seem as if his father was actually dead, he just wanted to give an excuse.

When it is really God that is calling a person, there is nothing that can stop the mission, not even death. Like Jonah, those who are genuinely called may try to run away from God, but God has a way of making them return, they break all the seminary rules yet they never get driven away! To the world, such persons may appear most unqualified for the ministry but God’s choice is God’s choice.

The third case is a mixture of the above two. Here is a person who really wants to follow. He is the one calling God but unlike the first case, God is also calling him or rather, God decides to call him because he too is calling God. These are persons who were not God’s choice from the beginning but because they happen to get close enough, God decides to accept them as well.

The characteristic of this group is they always have two minds! It is like they want to eat their cake and have it at the same time. They really want to serve God but they desperately want all that this world has to offer. This third man said: “I will follow you Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at home.” Jesus did not write him off, he simply warns him about his double-mindedness. “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The funny thing is that regardless of which category, these three persons still make it into the priesthood and religious life. The first group consider the ministry as an opportunity for self-advancement, they see ministry like any other career; they are usually wealthy, ambitious and politically oriented so to say. They know what they want and they know which buttons to press to get what they want. They are high flyers.

The second group which are fewest in number are very genuine. They actually give it all to the ministry. They make a lot of sacrifice for God and even though they tried to resist God initially, even though they may be reckless in the beginning, they never look back once they have said Yes to God.

The third group are neither hot nor cold, their loyalty is divided. They really want to please God but they also want to please people. They love the white cassock but sometimes imagine themselves married. Amongst this third group contains a growing number of priests and religious who resign from ministry eventually.

At the end of the day, all three are serving God – following Jesus. It doesn’t really matter how one is called, it doesn’t even matter if it is the person calling God or vice versa. What matters is that God’s work is done.

Today, we celebrate St. Francis of Assisi. Based on his life story, I would put St. Francis in the second category. Born to very wealthy parents, St. Francis renounced all he had, gave out all his riches to the poor and went to become a monk. His father disowned him but even as a poor monk, he was the happiest man on earth. He was such a good preacher that even animals, would gather to listen to him preach.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my commitment to you. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.

(Wednesday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Nehemiah 2:1-8 and Luke 9:57-62).

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