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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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Peter and Paul: 
		<strong>Peter (d. 64?)</strong>. St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus. 
<p>The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles. </p><p>And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19). </p><p>But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus. </p><p>He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b). </p><p>Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17). </p><p><strong>Paul (d. 64?)</strong>. If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate. </p><p>Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. </p><p>Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise. </p><p>In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.</p> American Catholic Blog The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill. Christians don’t get to carry their cross downhill. Suffering has always been inextricably linked with Christianity, but those who carry their cross willingly in these times can serve as an example and inspiration to all of us.

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