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Bible Reflections View Comments

Are We Waiting for a Better Offer?
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, June 30, 2013
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Most of us spend a lot of time worrying about other people. Most of the time it’s out of a sense of genuine care and responsibility. Sometimes it can be a misplaced resentment of what other people seem to have that we don’t. We’re not worrying about them as much as we are worrying about ourselves. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to look at our own problems and the places where we need to move on.

Worrying is natural. Letting that concern take over our lives can be a problem. This is especially the case when we don’t want to do anything to alleviate the things we’re worried about. We simply want to stay stuck in the anxiety and the fretting. Taking action can be difficult and can make demands on us that we’d rather avoid. So we convince ourselves that the fussing itself is our occupation.

Today’s lectionary readings offer us a way to cut through some of this static that worry can cause. In today’s Gospel, several people express an interest in following Jesus, but in response to his invitation they offer a variety of reasons why they can’t respond “just yet.” How we interpret these responses may tell us something about which of our own concerns might be taking up too much psychic space in our lives.

In contrast to the would-be followers of Jesus, the first reading tells us the story of Elisha making the choice to follow the great prophet Elijah as his successor. He says farewell to his parents, he slaughters the oxen he’s been using to plow the field, he roasts them over a fire built from the yoke and plow. He feeds his village and is now free to follow the prophet.

In this one scene, we see the kind of decisive response that Jesus asks of his followers. If we truly want to be his disciples, then the gospel message needs to be the most important thing in our lives. It doesn’t mean we abandon our other responsibilities. But it does mean that we don’t let those responsibilities become excuses for not living Jesus’ message. We don’t set aside the demands for justice and truth in order to get ahead in the workplace. We don’t let friends and family members fill our lives with so many mundane demands for attention that we have no time for prayer or for Sunday Mass. We don’t look down on those who are poor and homeless so that we can continue to feel comfortable with our savings accounts and possessions. More than anything else, we need to become more attentive to when we’re making excuses for ourselves or others.

Neither Elijah nor Jesus was willing to listen to excuses from people who wanted to follow them half-heartedly or selfishly. They set the bar as high as it needed to be in order to ensure that those who followed knew what was expected of them.

We all know the saying about not putting all your eggs in one basket. But sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do. Many people want to hedge their bets. They’re reluctant to make a commitment. But any successful entrepreneur will tell you that if you’re not willing to commit everything you have to making a great idea a reality will say that those people will likely fail.

Again and again in our lives, we will feel a desire to follow Jesus more devotedly. We need to prepare now to respond to that call wholeheartedly.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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