First reading: 1 Kgs. 19:16b,19–21
The LORD said to Elijah: “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you.”
Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.
Second reading: Gal. 5:1,13–18
Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.
I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Gospel: Lk. 9:51–62
When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In other words Fr. Joey Miras, SVD (Canada)
Once I interviewed a couple wanting to get married in the Church. As I explained the parish’s policies on marriages, on the needed documents, and different stages of preparation, the future husband started expressing his opinion about the Catholic Church, the abuses, the scandalous financial management happening in the Church, the money-making enterprises of some parishes, etc. I told him that while I am aware of his opinions, I also explained that they were not parishioners and not regular churchgoers, so perhaps it would be better for him and his future wife to participate first in the life and activities of our parish. I also volunteered that if they become regular participants in our parish activities, I would make him a member of the Parish Finance Council, giving him access to the financial situation of the parish. I added that one has to be an “insider” first if one wants to be a valid critic. It was the end of his antagonistic and critical opinions, but I knew he was not convinced.
This is just one of my many encounters with people who are very antagonistic about the Church. Some whom I met were even spewing hatred because of certain hurts they experienced. There were others who simply wanted to denigrate and even curse the Church. And others wanted only to argue.
There were times in the past when I was tempted to act like the apostles of Christ who were sent ahead to prepare his way to Jerusalem. They were to pass by Samaria, and they were not welcomed. The apostles were offended, and they asked Jesus if they could rain down fire on the Samaritans to consume them for their inhospitable and unreceptive attitude.
But I have come to take into account the reasons why they hate and sometimes nurture fear towards the message of Christ or the medium itself. Besides, I don’t have the extraterrestrial power to cast a spell on others. Instead, I try to search for the wisdom and insight of their criticisms and antagonisms. They might be pointing to a different way of governing and administering the Church or packaging the message of God, for after all, God’s message can be mediated through many different ways (Habbakuk 1:13).
I remember what one religious shared when she worked before with street children. In one incident, while having a session with a girl, she tried to befriend her, but she was slapped by the girl. At that moment, she said to herself, “Here I am trying to help, and all I get in return for all my goodwill and effort is a slap on the facing coming from a girl.”
Definitely, it is much more challenging to work with non-believers. Most often, we encounter those who are meaner and fiercer. It is at this time that we need to hear the rebuke that Jesus gave his apostles. After all, we are supposed to work with those who are unchurched and unbelievers.