Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Sunday Readings




Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary, Cycle C

June 26, 2022

Readings: 1st Book of Kings 19.16-21; Galatians 5.1, 13-18; Luke 9.51-62

In its proximity, the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24) blends well with this Sunday’s readings.  Like John the Baptist, Elijah and Elisha (First Reading) find themselves in the desert in response to God’s call. 

These two prophets, like John, respond to the call of God in the absolute, uncompromising way that Jesus requires (the Gospel Reading).  For Jesus there is no other reality than the Kingdom of God.  Seek and possess the Kingdom and be possessed by the Kingdom, and it follows that all that is needed will be given.  The absolute following of the call of God is perfect freedom and liberty.  This adherence to God, however, finds opposition from the “flesh”—by the term, “flesh,” it describes an individual who sees itself as his or her own center, actively fleeing dependence on God (Second Reading).

Often we look at our culture and its values and we think:  am I delusional to follow Christ?  A glance at an icon of a saint or the celebration of the saint of the day, reminds us:  No, it is not unreasonable to follow Christ in the depths of a total gift in the Holy Spirit.  Here is this saint, St. John the Baptist, who followed Christ in a heroic fashion.  We can think of the many who continue faithfully to follow Christ in the contemporary Church.

The Scripture Readings are all about fidelity to the total gift of our selves to Christ.
The “flesh” St. Paul talks about in the Second Reading does not just concern lustful temptations. The “flesh” signifies more the weight of our natural inclination to live without the grace of Christ.  The “flesh” is to have confidence in all that we can do by ourselves.  To be in the flesh is to rely on the ideals held up by our modern society.

It was for liberty that Christ freed us.  So stand firm and do not take on yourselves the yoke of slavery a second time!  My point is that you should live in accord with the Spirit and you will not yield to the craving of the flesh.  The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed.  This is why you do not do what your will intends.  If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Second Reading). 

Jesus is clear in his demand that we follow him absolutely.  Let the dead bury their dead; come away and proclaim the Kingdom of God.  What? Not even stay for my own father’s funeral?  In the absoluteness of the invitation  to follow Christ, the answer is “no.”  Nothing is to be preferred to the love of Christ, as the rule of St. Benedict says.
The Rule of St. Benedict is the Western codification of the path of the Desert Fathers.  We are back in the desert, again with Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist.  Elisha was not even permitted to say good-bye to his father:  Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you (The First Reading).  Elijah’s response is to reject Elisha on the spot for his hesitation in dealing with the customary way of life: Go back!   “That’s it, boy; choose the Kingdom absolutely or forget about it: go home.”  Elisha’s response in repentance is to burn even the plowing equipment and slaughter his father’s oxen in a holocaust of surrender to the Kingdom. 

Jesus speaks in absolute terms:

Whosoever puts his hand to the plow but keep looking back is unfit for the Kingdom of God (Gospel Reading). 

I know that in crucial moments of my life I have not only looked back, but have run back, away from the call of Christ.  We can review our life to see the constant, serious, now terrifying, ways in which we have rejected our life with Christ.  The years we have spent in the flesh, entrapped, addicted, willfully knitting the web which enfolded us.  It is the grace of repentance then that becomes the second chance, the second call, sometimes the third call, seven times seven, calls from Christ to return to the path.

It is the flesh that also makes us despair in the memory of our infidelities because again we are relying on ourselves.  In the midst of our prayer, in those contemplative moments of deep purification, the past errors will come rushing up out of the depths of our memories.  These thoughts become the occasions of our surrender to the merciful love of Christ’s grace, preferring divine mercy in the place of self-centered regret.  In the midst of the memory of past sins, we return to the loving Presence of the Triune God who enfolds us:

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge; I say to the Lord, “My Lord are you.”  Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in the confidence because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your holy 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 (The Responsorial Psalm).

The daily or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are the means of entering into the healing process of our salvation.  They are part of our response of absolute surrender to Christ.  Let us walk in the contemplative path with the examples of Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist who did it before us, by the grace given in Christ.  These are not extraordinary ways to follow Christ.  They are all the innumerable tasks and relationships we find in our daily life—the little way of the Carmelite St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

Let us pray for one another that we be faithful to love in the occurrences of our daily life.  God’s grace is ready to enable us.  God’s grace ultimately is everywhere; all things are possible because of God’s powerful love and wisdom.

--William Fredrickson, (OblSB; D.Min.)



For questions, comments or other communication, please contact:
William Frederickson