3 Pentecost, Year C: Set Free for Service


2 Kgs. 2:1-2, 6-14 or 1 Kgs. 19:15-16, 19-21
Ps. 77:1-2, 11-20 or Ps. 16
Gal. 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

“For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). Freedom comes with a warning. “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence” (Gal. 5:13). Freedom understood merely as arbitrary choice for immediate and impetuous pleasure is indeed a form of bondage: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21). Such pleasure is not only directionless and destructive but also a path toward profound and bitter loneliness. People may “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 5:15). Violence may present itself as a ready answer. When, for instance, the Samaritans did not receive Jesus, James and John were quick to say, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54).

Authentic freedom is freedom for service to others, especially toward those we are bound to either by real or implied vows in the close circle of family, friends, neighbors, and church. “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). Turning to others, we are also tending to our own deepest needs. We hear an inner voice like that of Elisha before Elijah was taken up to heaven: “As the Lord lives, and you yourself live, I will not leave you” (2 Kgs. 2:2). We hear a voice like Ruth speaking to her mother-in-law, Naomi: “Do not press me to leave you, to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Yearning for connections and meaning, we hear Jesus speak: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. … I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you” (John 14:16, 18). The Advocate comes, bearing a tangled web of relationships, obligations, duties, sorrows, and joys that make up our lives. The Advocate within us connects us to others. Even the most solitary monk in his small cell, with his little cup of water and portion of bread, cannot be himself unless his heart and hands are the instruments of service to the world. In some sense, it is good to be alone. Go to your room, shut the door, and pray. But it is not good to be utterly alone. We need companions on the way because we are only persons in a community of other persons. Thus, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).

We need other people, but not only other people. Jesus came for the life of the world, for the whole creation. With the eyes of faith, we see and feel the works of the Lord, mighty deeds, works of wonder, the water, the sky, lightning, earth, everything radiant with divine presence (Ps. 77:11-18). In the exquisite words of Thomas Traherne, “You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you” (Centuries).

Nature and people are the sacramentals of a well-formed and mature Christian life.

Look It Up: Acts 2:44

Think About It: All who believed were together and had all things in common.



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