When God came for Elisha, He did not wait for him to be ready. He did not wait for Elisha to be prepared or properly dressed. God sent Elijah to him where he was, sweaty from his labor, smelling of the twelve oxen he’d been walking behind, and in the midst of the work of his life. It’s the same way that God calls to us. He calls to us in the midst of the mess and the turmoil of our daily lives, not when we are studied and prepared, but out of the messiness of the ordinary everyday.
But, like us, Elisha was not ready to go when God called, saying “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Even when the Holy Man of God stood before him in the flesh, Elisha felt the tug of the rest of the world on him, the need to “complete” what was going on, saying a proper good-bye to everyone, before he was ready to answer the summons God had sent.
In the Gospel reading, we see the same thing. Christ himself stands before a man and says, “Follow me.” Faced with a personal invitation from the Son of God, the man replies, “Let me go first and bury my father.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
It is easy to sympathize with Elisha and the men in today’s Gospel. There are family obligations and societal niceties which often seem to be of unbreakable importance. These are the things we can’t ignore, the obligations which we feel that we must obey.
And yet God doesn’t call us when we are ready and our calendars are empty. He calls to us when it is our time. He sends for us, and expects us to answer, to turn our eyes solely to Him and do His will. He did not ask any of the men in these readings to ignore their families or to neglect their parents (which would have violated the Fourth Commandment), but to recognize that their duty to God was higher than what they owed to their families, friends, and their social standing.
As we heard in the Second reading:
I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
At the End, we will not be judged by how well we followed the rules of the society in which we lived. God does not see as man sees or judge as man judges. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect children, husbands or wives, friends, co-workers, or siblings. He asks us to turn from the things of this world, take up our crosses and follow Him.
Jesus says that His sheep know the sound of His voice and trust him. Do we? Do we hear when he calls? Do we listen to the Master’s voice? Do we come when He calls? Are we willing to follow him no matter where He leads? That’s what He asks of us, to be ready to leave our oxen in the fields, and everything we hold dear behind, and follow Him.