Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Any avid user of social media platforms should be conversant with the word “followers,” which describes the people who subscribe to someone’s ideas or activities in the social space. People often evaluate the weight of an individual’s fame from the number of followers the individual has been able to attract and retain. However, fame does not translate to a positive influence on people’s lives.
The Portuguese professional soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed individual on Instagram (440 million followers as of April 2022) and Facebook (about 122 million followers as of May 2022). Barak Obama, a former president of the United States of America, on the other hand, is the most followed person on Twitter, with about 131 million followers as of April 2022.
One may wonder if some progressive and productive relationships exist between followers and the individuals they are following. Sometimes followers are even turned into money as people can monetize their social media space on the strength of followers or subscribers for enrichment.
The Biblical Perspective: The Greek rendering of the biblical word “follow” is akoloutheō which means to accompany or assist. This biblical usage mostly speaks of an active alignment, not a passive accompaniment.
When Jesus met Peter and the others by the sea of Galilee and said, “follow me,” he was not inviting them to become spectators but co-workers, and that was why he said: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). And after making them, Jesus also sent them out to make others (Matt. 28:19-20).
The First Reading today (1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21) tells us about God’s call of Elisha into the prophetic ministry through Elijah, who was coming to the end of his assignment. The narrative gives us some compelling lessons about discipleship or followership.
We first learn that Elisha’s ministry was according to God’s plan as God related to Elijah that Elisha would succeed him. When Elijah approached Elisha, he threw his mantle over him without saying anything, and immediately Elisha left his trade and followed Elijah as his attendant.
The Gospel Reading (Luke 9:51-62) tells us what happened when Jesus made his way to Jerusalem. Someone offered to follow him, but Jesus turned him down by saying, “foxes have dens and birds of the sky have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Furthermore, Jesus said to another, “follow me,” but he gave excuses about a dead father that he needed to bury. Another who was asked to follow the Lord wanted to go first and say farewell to his family.
God Calls: Reading the story of Elisha and the narrative about the various followers that encountered Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, one thing stands out; God calls! In the Gospel narrative, someone offered to follow the Lord, but the Lord turned him down. Recall that our Lord Jesus Christ said nobody could come to him except the Father draws him (John 6:44).
Discerning and Answering God’s Call: Notice that Elijah did not say a word to Elisha, but the mantle he placed on him spoke, and Elisha understood that God was calling him to follow Elijah.
God calls us in various ways, but we need our spiritual faculties to be attentive enough to discern when God uses people, circumstances, and situations around us to call us. Samuel could hear God’s calling because he was attentive (1 Samuel 3:1-10).
One of the productive indicators of a proper response to God’s call to follow is the ability to let go of people and things. Even Elisha, who discerned God’s nearly stumbled into the trap of family ties when he said, “please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye.” One of those Jesus called also said: “let me FIRST say farewell to my family.”
The message here is not that anyone should despise their family, but what it means is that answering God should precede family ties. In other words, God first, then family and other realities.
Staying Called: The success of anything we do in life has a lot to do with being consistent and remaining that way. It is one thing to answer God’s call to follow Him and yet another to stay in that status.
We live in a world with many distracting voices that often speak louder. It was to this effect that our Lord Jesus Christ ended the discourse in the Gospel with these words: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62).
Moving Forward: Who are you following and why?
Who you follow in life determines what you get. Leaders often generate the capacity to transform followers through their influence. The apostles became beacons of the Gospel because they followed the Lord, and he made it so.
Every one of us needs to know who we follow and why. After the miracle of the multiplication of five loaves and two fish, many people followed Jesus. But when Jesus said he would give them his body and and blood as real food unto eternal life many of them walked away (John 6:66). Who are you following and why? Beyond anyone, you may follow for any reason, the best person to follow is the Lord because He will always lead us on the right path (Psalm 23:3).
God bless you.