13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The absolute heart of our faith is love. Not love as a concept or a way of behaving – but love as a person. Jesus Our Lord. In love we are created, in love we are born, in love we are held in being. That love is personal, it is me, it is you, it is each one of us that is personally deeply loved by God. The one who is the reason for the existence of everything, who is the source of all things, who is all powerful and all knowing, loves me. I am, you are, utterly loved, by God. This love is revealed in Jesus, revealed in him because he is God and revealed in a way we can understand and respond to because he is truly human.
Our lasting happiness, in the end, is to love the one who loves us so much. To put the beloved at the centre of our lives, to live for the beloved to be ever bathed in his love, to know and love love.
But true love in this life is utterly demanding. This is revealed by Jesus in His passion and death. That is what his love for us cost. True love always involves the Cross because it involves putting the beloved first, the beloved is at the centre of my life not me. It involves self giving and self denial and therefore it does involve suffering in this life.
The Gospel gives a quick catechesis on the love that leads to happiness. First its love. It’s a call not a demand. We are free like the Samaritans to reject it. It’s difficult, the one we love has no where to lay his head – if we love him we will be like him. It is a new way of life, the laws and concerns of this world are no longer our primary concern. ‘Let the dead bury their dead” and finally it is a complete giving of self and of life. ‘Once the hand is laid to the plough there is no looking back”.
Elisha’s actions prophecy this completeness of love when he destroys his livelihood, using his plough for fuel to cook his oxen, so that he is completely free to follow his vocation.
Never forget that our Catholic notion of freedom is completely different from that of the world. For the world freedom means I can do what I want, no one can tell me what to do. For us freedom is freedom to love Jesus who loves us so much.
St Paul has an interesting meditation on freedom in that second reading. He is writing to those who kept the whole of the Jewish law including circumcision, ritual purification, dietary requirements. Now they have accepted the love of God revealed in Jesus the law is no longer necessary. As long as you love your neighbour and are guided by the Spirit, that is the indwelling of Divine life which is the gift of Divine love then you are free. But that freedom can be stifled by self indulgence. Self indulgence he says is opposed to the Spirit. Precisely because self indulgence means selfishness, Me at the centre where as the Spirit means self giving YOU the beloved at the Centre.