Vocation – The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Vincent van Gogh “Enclosed Field with Ploughman” (1889)

Central idea: God must come first. Doctrine: Vocation. Practical application: Living then discerning your vocation.

To view Lectionary 99, click here.

Central Idea: God must come first

Reading 1 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.

  • God revealed to the great prophet Elijah that Elisha was to succeed him.
  • Elisha must have been a well-to-do young man. He not only had a massive team of oxen for plowing, he must also have owned large fields to justify using so many animals.
  • But Elisha’s new vocation was to serve God by following Elijah.
    • His total commitment to break from his old life is seen in his destruction of his livelihood: He slaughtered his oxen, burned up the yokes as firewood, and fed his family and servants with the meat.
  • At the call of Elijah, Elisha took his hand from his plow, assured he would never look back, and followed Elijah as his attendant.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.”

I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

  • Like the young Elisha, the Psalmist knew that we must put God first in our lives.
  • “You are my inheritance, O Lord.” If we put God first, he will care for us now and reward us with eternal life in the end.
  • Seen in the light of the Catholic Faith, “You are my inheritance” is literally true. We will inherit God. We already possess God’s life to some degree through the sanctifying grace of Baptism and the other sacraments. In heaven (if we attain it), we will have God’s life to the greatest degree we can. We will be divinized.

Reading 2 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.

  • Paul contrasts freedom and slavery, the Spirit and the flesh.
    • This is not to be interpreted as if the human soul is good and the human body is evil. No, both are good.
    • By spirit Paul means the life of grace given to us through Christ. This life in the Spirit is lived by loving your neighbor as yourself, by serving the others.
    • By flesh, St. Paul means just the opposite: He means selfishness. He means using others so they will love you and do good for you without you having a thought for them. When two people in any relationship are in it for themselves, the result is “biting and devouring one another.”
  • Both grace and selfishness are strong forces in us. They are at war. But the two forces behave quite differently. Grace or the spirit always only suggests, and if you consent, it assists you. Selfishness or the flesh always demands, and if you consent, it makes you grab, or as St. Paul puts it, devour.
  • If the spirit wins—that is, if we cooperate with grace and serve others—we will live lives of freedom. If the flesh wins—that is, we seek only our own good and use others to achieve it – we will actually be self-enslaved.

Alleluia 1 Sm 3:9; Jn 6:68c

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening;
you have the words of everlasting life.

  • In two verses, the Church sets the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ before us.
  • Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. The proper attitude of a disciple of Christ is to listen to what Jesus Christ reveals. We listen to what Christ reveals in order to embrace it completely.
  • You have the words of everlasting life. The message is entirely good, which is why we listen and embrace it, why it is gospel or good tidings.

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.”

  • Today’s Gospel records four things Jesus’ friends say to him. Each statement gets a different response than the speaker expected.
    • James and John say, “Let’s destroy the Samaritan village that rejected us!” This earns them a rebuke.
    • The second speaker was really thinking something like, “If I follow the Messiah faithfully I’ll end up in a palace!” Jesus tells him, You won’t have a home on earth.
    • The third means, “Sure, I’ll follow you, Lord. Just let me wait till my father dies, whenever that will be.” Jesus’ answer: The time is now.
    • The fourth appears to think: “I can keep a nice balance between my old life and what you ask of me, Lord.” Jesus’ answer, echoing Elisha, is: I want a total commitment.
  • Following Christ demands a radical change. The change is that we orient our life to Christ. As St. Paul just reminded us, we live according to the Spirit, that is, loving God and neighbor assisted by grace, not according to the flesh, that is, selfishly using others.
  • Today, a powerful minority, increasingly backed by government, education, big business, and the mass media is demanding that we adapt our Catholic faith to their ideology.
    • We are supposed to agree that instead of their being two complementary sexes, male and female, there are dozens and dozens of “genders,” that are self-chosen.
    • We are supposed to embrace a new definition of marriage, that it is an impermanent and non-exclusive state-sanctioned romantic relationship between any two adults, regardless of their sex, with no real connection to children.
    • We must say abortion and contraception are rights and pay for others to receive them.
    • Overall, we must leave our Catholic faith—especially our morality—outside public life.
  • What do you think Christ would say? Faced with a similar demand, the Apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
  • Where was Jesus Christ headed when he answered the questions in today’s Gospel? He was going to Jerusalem to die on the Cross. Fidelity to our Catholic Faith has that price. That price is not too high because “The Lord is our inheritance.”

Doctrine: Vocation

  • Christian or not, each human being shares the same basic calling: To live in this life so as to attain eternal beatitude in the next. This is the vocation of every person in every age in every place.
    • The Psalmist attests that if we stay close to God, no matter what happens to us, we will ultimately be okay, or rather, infinitely better than okay. This is why the Psalmists says, “You are my inheritance, O Lord.” The “are” is of course conditional, based on the fidelity of our response to God’s call.
  • In today’s readings we see various vocations: Elisha’s vocation to become a prophet, every Christian’s vocation to live according to the Spirit, the disciples’ vocation to dedicate their lives to serving the Church, and Christ’s own vocation to give up his life to redeem and sanctify humanity.
  • In the Church, there are many vocations:
    • For a man, to be a layman, a priest, or a religious.
    • For a woman, to be a laywoman or a religious.
    • For both men and women, if they are called to the laity, to choose the single life or marriage.
    • For laypersons, to a multitude of kinds of work, with a great scope for freedom in choosing, from artist to baker to chemist . . . to xylophonist to yacht builder to zoologist.
  • The vocation to which God calls most people is to the laity and to married life. It is noble for a woman to be a wife and mother and for a man to be a husband and father.

Practical Application: Living then discerning your vocation

  • Often when priests and religious speak about vocation, they mean discerning if God is calling a young person to the priesthood or religious life, as Elisha had a vocation to the office of prophet in ancient Israel.
  • It is certainly right for every Catholic young man to pray to know if he has a vocation to the ministerial priesthood and/or to the religious life and for every Catholic young woman if she has a vocation to the religious life.
  • However, living one’s vocation comes before discerning it. Why is this? The reason is that every one of us is already in a state of life. Priests, religious, and all married persons already know their vocation.
  • A young person who is trying to figure out what to do with his or her life is currently a member of the laity. The young person is also already in important relationships with parents, siblings, and friends. Each also has a job, as a student or in the work world.
  • So what all of us have in common is the need to live our calling better. A priest needs to be a better priest, according to the demands of the priesthood. A monk, brother, nun, or sister needs to be a more faithful religious, according to the demands of religious life. A layperson needs to do the same, according to whether he or she is single or married, and in regard to his or her various roles and responsibilities.
  • Vatican II’s foundational document tells us that the vocation of the laity is to “seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.” Living in the world and working in secular professions and occupations, the laity ought to sanctify all the “ordinary circumstances of family and social life” (Lumen Gentium 31).
  • In Vatican II’s document on the apostolate of the laity, we read: “In the pilgrimage of this life, hidden with Christ in God and free from enslavement to wealth, [the laity] aspire to those riches which remain forever and generously dedicate themselves wholly to the advancement of the kingdom of God and to the reform and improvement of the temporal order in a Christian spirit” (Apostolicam Actuositatem 4).
    • Religious have a kind of proper contempt for the world as they try to live now in anticipation of the kingdom of heaven, for example in the constant contemplation of God. The laity, on the other hand, need to use the things of this world, without being enslaved to them, in order to gain the “riches that remain forever.”
    • Both priests, religious, and laity share in the task of “the advancement of the kingdom of God.”
    • The laity also have a specific and awesome task: “the reform and improvement of the temporal order in a Christian spirit.”

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)






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