XIII-O.T.-C: I Kgs 19:16b, 19-21; Gal 5:1, 13-18; Lk 9: 51-62
An expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will probably never forget. As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"
Everyone in the class said, "Yes."
Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"
By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered.
"Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in, and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"
"No!" the class shouted.
Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"
"No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all.
Jesus says, "Follow me." BIG rock. We respond, "I will follow you, Lord, but..." Priorities. Get the big rocks in first. How to make sure the priorities are appropriate? A good start will be a commitment to ‘Ban the Buts’, then all the rest will fall into place. If you place Jesus the number one priority in your life you will be his true disciple.
Today’s readings are about God’s call and man’s answering that call with commitment. The first reading describes how Elisha committed himself whole-heartedly to answer God’s call to be a prophet, in spite of his initial hesitation when God called him through the prophet Elijah.
In today’s Gospel, Luke introduces some potential disciples who offered a variety of reasons as to why Jesus’ call to ministry was “impossible” for them to accept. We are surprised at Jesus’ sharp response to the first man’s willing discipleship. Undoubtedly, Jesus saw more deeply into the man’s heart than we can. Jesus is simply honest about the demands and the cost of a commitment we might make too lightly and a journey we might undertake too easily. “Let the dead bury their dead”: This response may sound too harsh. But this man’s father was not dead or sick. He simply wished to stay with his father until his death. Jesus knew that later he would find another reason to delay the call. Jesus did not want another would-be follower to go home and bid farewell to his dear ones. Hence, Jesus rebukes him saying that the plowman must look ahead rather than back. Looking back while plowing, causes crooked lines in the field. We see classical cases of initial reluctance and lame excuses in accepting God’s call from Moses (Exodus 3: 1, 4: 10), Gideon (Judges 6: 15), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6), and Isaiah (Isaiah 6: 5). But gradually they committed totally to God’s service. Hence, we should be slow to condemn those who offer excuses in the service of the Lord; we need to offer them proper motivation, support, and encouragement.
We need to pray for strength to honor all our commitments. We are here this morning because, in one way or another, we have said to Jesus, “I will follow you.” But the truth of the matter is that most of us don't want to follow Jesus because we want him to follow us. Hence, we are only partially faithful to him. But the Good News is that we are following him as best we can. We will leave this hour of Eucharistic worship and return to the world with all sorts of tough choices and difficult demands. Hence, we need to pray for strength, we need to ask for forgiveness when we fail, and we need to renew our determination to walk with Jesus by being loyal to our spouse and family, earning our living honestly, and living not only peacefully, but lovingly, with our neighbors.
Let’s pray that we may be able to follow Jesus totally and immediately, without any reservation, by giving up everything we have and surrendering our lives to God in the service of others.