13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
June 30, 2013
KILLING THE GOOSE; WORKING FOR REAL GOLD!
It seems like we do have some hot-heads in the Bible … impulsive individuals who do things on the spur of the moment, and who resolve to execute the first thought that comes to mind. Well, sort of … There’s Elisha, for one … A bit on the rash side, he did not think twice about “killing the goose that layed the golden eggs.” No, I am being flippant here. He had no geese, but he had something a whole lot better. How about being a farmer and having all the animals of burden you wanted?
Well, Elisha was one such happy farmer who had the wherewithal to do his work with ease, for he had a beast of burden to help him plow one for every twelve months in a year! But he was crazy enough one day when he saw not just golden eggs, but what was equivalent to more than just gold and decided to pursue it. Stricken by Elijah the prophet’s vision for him, symbolized by the former’s act of “throwing his cloak over him,” Elisha ran after the prophet and said, “I will follow you.”
Paul was another case in point. He had a blooming intellectual career. He spoke Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and most probably Aramaic, too. He was no ordinary Jew … no, he was of Jewish stock, but was a Roman citizen, a cosmopolitan polyglot and budding intellectual in his own right. And on top of all this, he was a rabid persecutor of the Church founded by the hated Galilean, who was reported to have been executed by cruel crucifixion, but rumored to have risen from the dead! Stricken down on his way to Damascus, though blinded, he saw more, not less. In a vision, he saw him whom he was persecuting, who looked at him with compassion and love, and healed him from his spiritual bondage and pride.
But here’s the best part … James and John were loyal followers who had fiery tempers. The two disciples were a tad too protective of their Master. And they wouldn’t brook any opposition and unwelcome behavior. They had a way of matching attitude with corresponding attitude on their part. “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
Oh my goodness! Elisha, Paul, James and John sure had gumption! Having been in leadership, too, in my life, who would not want such loyal followers? What general among us would not want such protective foot soldiers by his side all the time? The famous Uriah who obediently went to the front lines at the behest of King David (thanks to his scheming and lustful motives) was surely an asset to anyone, most of all, to the revered and beloved – and mind you – anointed leader!
So are we extolling the virtue here of impulsivity? Last time I checked, impulsivity was not a virtue at all, but a weakness of character. Well, Uriah had virtue. He obeyed with nary a whimper, even if he got more than just the shorter end of the stick in the end. But Elisha? Foolish, you might say! Indeed, what businessman in our midst would be happy to see capital flight first hand, with him and no one else as loser? What committed executive in out midst, complete with vision, mission and marching orders, would all of a sudden stop grab his parachute and bail out of the plane all because he now hears the beatings of a different drum?
Foolishness and something worse is all we could think of. OK, so they were all fools!
But that does not quite foot the bill entirely. For here, we are talking of some important journey. Elijah was on a journey towards the immediately undefinable. Paul was on a journey, too, alright, and he was the quintessential committed executive who rode headlong toward a fulfillment of an important self-imposed task. The journey was toward something eminently irrepressible! The Lord, too, was on his final journey “to Jerusalem.” His was a journey and a quest that was more than simply irrepressible.
I have been a priest for 30 years now, a teacher for 34, and a host of other things for as many years. Been there; done that … While I strive to be a follower of the Lord plain and simple, I cannot say that I have gotten anywhere near Elisha, Paul, and yes – not even like James and John who were willing to produce some sparks and fireworks when push comes to shove. Yes … like most everyone I know, I can be focused more on the golden eggs and miss both the goose and the truly and authentically, gold.
Today, the readings tell us something important. Never mind the goose … That is first in the agenda. But a close second is implied … Don’t work simply for the golden eggs. Look for the gold!
Elisha saw it, and killed his goose, all 12 oxen that he had and made a feast for his workers. Paul saw it and left a blooming, promising career as someone who was somebody in Roman and Jewish society. James and John, for their impusivity, were willing to lay down their lives for the Master.
At this point in my life, after the “been there; done that” syndrome, I realize, albeit belatedly, that there is something more important than the goose, and all the mythical gold it can bring us. I search more for the gold, for the golden rule of life and salvation that the Lord has given us. And that gold is a person who asks us to follow him.
Elisha, in the end, was no fool. Neither was Paul. They gave up all they had. For “no one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”