Like most kids and the last child, I loved to follow my parents whenever I see them going out. Sometimes they would try to stop me or pull a trick on me and leave without me. On one occasion, my dad was preparing to go out for an event that would not have kids in attendance, but I wanted to follow him so severely, but he declined. In between my tears, an idea jumped into my little head, “hide in the trunk of the van!” That was what I did. My heart was racing while hiding in the hot rear of the van, sweating and waiting for him to come out and drive off.
Suddenly I heard my name called several times in the house, but I couldn’t answer; I was in the wrong place and I didn’t want anyone to know. My dad was searching for me to give me some coins for candy as if to pay me for refusing to allow me to follow him. Soon it became a desperate search, and everyone became apprehensive about my sudden disappearance. Somehow, one Patricks, who helps in the house reports about seeing me around the van a while before my unexpected recession from view, and he was right; my dad found me!
In our Christian life and practice, followership or discipleship is a decisive response to God, which involves a lifetime commitment. The First Reading today (1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21) gives us a fascinating narrative about the vocation of the prophet Elisha as a disciple of the prophet Elijah. Elijah comes upon Elisha as he works on the farm and throws his cloak over him. This silent gesture speaks to the discerning mind of Elisha, who eventually gives up his twelve yokes of oxen and follows Elijah.
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 9:51-62), our Lord Jesus Christ defies some oppositions on the way as he resolutely heads towards Jerusalem. On his way, he meets three prospective followers, and their characteristic dispositions form the base his instruction on followership. Let us explore these types of followers as the framework for our reflection.
The “Comfort-Minded” Follower: Our Lord did not call the first follower. He instead jumps into the idea of following him for a reason our Lord would disclose from his response to his request, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Our Lord seemed to have answered what was going on in his mind as he would do most times when people come around him with a hidden agenda (Matt. 9:4; Mark 2:8; Luke 5:22; Luke 6:8). The problem of the first follower is the misplacement of priority. He wanted to follow for the wrong reason, and that is the desire for material comfort.
The “Dead Father” Follower: The second follower gets the call to followership from our Lord Jesus Christ, but he begs to go first and bury his father. This might sound like a good reason to answer the call in a later time, but the response from our Lord Jesus Christ says the opposite, “let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” It would be necessary to know the meaning of Jesus’ response.
First, our Lord was not asking him not to bury his father because his father was not dead yet (maybe he is old or sick). Our Lord’s statement shows that he qualifies to proclaim the good news, but he prefers to postpone the Lord’s invitation to a later time. Our Lord’s response shows that procrastination could lead to spiritual death.
The “Family-Man” Follower: The third follower agrees to follow our Lord but wants to go back home to say farewell to his family. To this follower, our Lord says, “no one sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” Here, we discover that this potential follower has a more significant commitment to his family than to the call to follow the Lord. We could recall the following words from our Lord in the Gospel of Luke (14:26), “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t mean that followership should disregard family; he was advising that family should not come before God; God comes first always. God is the author of family and any reference to family without God is a waste of time.
Moving Forward: Becoming the “Faithful Follower”
We discover the characteristics of the ideal follower from the responses of our Lord to the three followers. The faithful follower is not interested in the potential comfort from following the Lord. The First Reading tells us that Elisha gave up his farming business and followed Elijah after receiving the touch of his cloak. We often mistake serving God with the overflow of wealth in various forms and shapes, and most contemporary preachers are not making the matter simple, as they often confuse Christian followership with the gospel of prosperity.
The faithful follower does not postpone his response to the call to followership. Often, we give lousy excuses for not getting in tune with what God expects from us; we have more “dead fathers” than we need in our lives. Sometimes we think that there would be a better time to become serious with the things of God and that time would never come. The best time is now, just like Elisha followed Elijah without looking out for that best time.
The faithful follower places God above family and not the other way. Often, we get so involved with the family that we lose our needful relationship with God. Any family relationship that diminishes our connection with God is most undeserving and toxic to our spiritual growth. St. Paul in the Second Reading (Gal. 5:1, 13-18) tell us that our call involves freedom from attachment from worldly concerns that are in opposition to our spiritual wellbeing.
Today we need to reappraise our followership disposition. It is common in the world today for most people to follow people on televisions, social media, networking sites, and other platforms that encourage followership but how many of us are faithfully following our Lord Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life?
As we reflect on God’s invitation to discipleship, may we resolve to be more responsive to the Lord’s call to follow him. Have a blissful Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.