June 26, 2016

Readings: 1 Kgs 19:16b,19-21 / Gal 5:1, 13-18 / Lk 9:51-62


Our contemporary language is chock-full of insights about what we value, about what we consider as important above all others. There was a time when we were told to tune in to a particular radio program, or to a particular TV channel. When there were but few
choices available, we were advised to tune in. It was just a simple matter of turning the dial, and placing the arrow on the exact spot that corresponds to the desired radio frequency (which was either AM or FM).

In our times, we speak more of the need to tune out. With an almost endless array of choices; with so many products to select from, our capacity for freely making choices means that we first need to tune out or zone out in order to narrow down the list. We literally need to un-clutter our lives first before we can make order come out of chaos.

Tuning out and tuning in both have to do with the capacity for, and the actual use of, our personal freedom.

Freedom to follow Elijah is the subject of the first reading. As soon as Elijah threw his cloak over Elisha, the latter unhesitatingly un-cluttered his life, said good-bye to what bound him to his past, and followed Elijah as his attendant. We are told explicitly: Taking
the yoke of oxen, Elisha slaughtered them, used the plowing equipment to boil their flesh, and gave it to the people to eat. He tuned out before he tuned in, and focused on becoming a prophet like Elijah was.

Paul, for his part, takes up the same icon of the yoke that Elisha burned, and advises the Galatians to set themselves free. But for them to be truly free, they first need to zone out of situations that enslaved them. Only then could they really focus on genuine freedom. In effect, Paul tells them to be free from in order to be free for. He counsels them to liberate themselves from the "law of the flesh so that they could live by the Spirit. Again, we may speak of his thoughts in terms of tuning out so that we could tune in to what
leads to genuine interior freedom.

The Gospel of Luke links up this interior freedom with the call to discipleship. For a disciple to be genuinely free to follow the Lord, he has to tune out three things in his life.

First in the list is the need for safety, comfort, and security. He tells the enthusiastic applicant who asked to follow him wherever he went: Foxes have dens and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head. In effect, he tells
him to tune out first from all your cares and tune in to the demands inherent in being a disciple.

Second in the list is the need to zone out of all excuses, rationalizations, and alibis, legitimate or otherwise. Various concerns and personal ambitions, wants, and desires always tend to crowd out the feeble desire in the human heart to do good. One always will find a reason to delay, to postpone, to hem and haw, and to push ahead and pull back at one and the same time, when it comes to doing something difficult but necessary. Focus isn't possible when we are too caught up in so many conflicting concerns at one and the same time.

Third in the list, which is perhaps the most difficult of all, is the need to tune out of so many attachments, affections, and emotional bonds that tie up the human heart. With so many conflicting allegiances, so many loyalties that claim for our undivided attention at any given time, we need to narrow down the field of choices a little bit. We need to lose some in order to win some. We need to let go if we are to let grow that feeble desire to do something really marvelous for God and others. No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.

Our postmodern and globalized world has definitely made our field of choices wider and broader. Endless choices mark our entertainment world. But our interior freedom to make wise choices may have narrowed down considerably. In many cases, commercial
advertisers may really have decided already for young and old alike. For many young people, who live in the midst of so much peer pressure, there may not be any interior freedom left to speak of when it comes to deciding to behave and act any differently from
what the world of young people all over the world expects.

The call to discipleship, that is, the call to follow Christ truly, fully, and meaningfully, is basically a call to heighten and broaden our freedom. But before we can be free for Christ, we need to be free from so many constraints that pose as obstacles to fully
following him. For us to be able to tune in to God, we very literally need first to tune out to so many things that do not lead us to Him.

At this juncture, I am reminded of the extended essay "Walden Pond" written by the American writer Henry David Thoreau. He writes about his going to the woods because [he] wished to live deliberately. He speaks about cutting a broad swath and saying no to
everything that was not life. He purposely tuned out in order to tune in and to front the essential facts of life.

He actually speaks of the very same stuff we are speaking of right now. He refers to the need for anyone to tune out or zone out of so many superficial and many times conflicting concerns that tend to crowd out the absolute essential of life.

Today, our readings remind us of this essential. And this essential is all about God's call for us to follow Him. For us to do so, we need to un-clutter our lives. We need to say no to everything that is not discipleship. We need to tune out, in order for us to tune in. Free
us, Lord, from darkness and keep us in the radiance of your truth.