Ready To Follow The Lord

A Reflection for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C).
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 – Galatians 5:1, 13-18 – Luke 9:51-62.

There is a way of life practised by the Igbo tribe of Nigeria called “Igba boi.” In English this translates as “apprenticeship” with particular regard to trade, and it distinguishes the Igbo people wherever they find themselves. The Igbo tribe is well-known for its remarkable skill in trading in different commodities. The Igbos pass that skill down the family line, through the generations. With globalization, the Igbo people are now able to go beyond their tribal limits to involve others willing and interested in joining in this practice.

In this practice are the Master (‘Ọga’) and the Apprentice (‘Boi’). Each apprentice is expected to learn and work alongside the Master for a specific period. The apprentice leaves his parents’ house and lives with the Master for between four and five years. There is always a ceremony that accompanies the send-off of the young apprentice. The Boi learns the craft of his particular Master for free. There is no charge. The Masters (‘Ọga’) will look after their apprentices and provide for their needs until they are ready to begin work and open their own businesses. Once that stage is reached, the Master will provide the necessary finance and some business connections for the young entrepreneur to work with and to grow his own business. The practice is not restricted to commerce and trade but to every aspect of working life.

Now, a certain mechanic (Ọga) had an apprentice who wasn’t coping with the learning process after two years! The Ọga complained to the apprentice’s family about the difficulty in training their son, who was failing to grasp the basics. When the family asked for more information about the problem, the Oga asked the young apprentice to fetch him some tools. When the young man was asked to get a spanner, he turned up with a pair of pliers. When he was asked to fetch some bolts, he brought clips. When asked to get screwdrivers, he got nuts, and so on. It wasn’t the young man’s vocation to be a mechanic, even though that was what his family wanted him to become.

Dear brothers and sisters, this Igbo practice of ‘apprenticeship’ is no different from the call to discipleship. Today’s readings are focused on our preparedness to become disciples of Christ.

On His journey to Jerusalem, Jesus met three men who were anxious to follow Him and to be taught by Him. The problem is that they were unfit to meet the challenge. Their responses disqualified them, proving that there were barriers to their discipleship. The first young man was bursting with enthusiasm and vowed to follow Jesus. He must have been very surprised to hear Jesus caution him that the Son of Man did not have a home to call his own. Jesus was only warning him to beware the real motive behind his enthusiasm. The man was ready to follow Jesus only in good times, so we hear nothing further about him. Jesus is only being fair to us when He clarifies what is expected of those who wish to participate in His ministry. If we want to accompany Him, we must be fully aware of what we are taking on, and be alert to the harsh realities of living out the Christian life and the sacrifices that have to be made when following Him.

In the 1st reading we learn from Elisha’s experience of the call to discipleship that a personal choice is involved, a choice you make yourself, which entails some sacrifice. You may have to leave behind a familiar way of life, or endure parting big time from some of your family members, or ditch your plans for God’s plans. When you finally discern your vocation, your calling, then that’s the time to celebrate.

Following St Paul’s advice, anyone called to be a disciple of Christ has to avoid self-indulgence, to avoid putting oneself and one’s personal needs and comforts first. Rather, each disciple has to prioritise wholehearted and determined discipleship of the Lord Jesus, the Master. After all, we embraced the call to discipleship from the moment of our Baptism.

We, too, face situations similar to those faced by the three young volunteers in the Gospel reading. Amidst our work, as we are hurrying about our business, we encounter Jesus, who beckons us to come and serve Him. He longs for us to acknowledge His loving presence and to concentrate on fulfilling His will in our daily choices. Sometimes we may encounter major conflicts of loyalty, or be required just to be friendly to someone.

Though we value our calling as Christians, we equivocate regarding its cost to our freedom. Today we are afforded an excellent opportunity to deepen and renew the relationship we, as a believing community, have established with Christ. Now is the time to pray for the grace to follow Him without reservation. The Lord’s call requires an immediate response, and that response is not just something to be fitted in after we have attended to all our important daily business, like maintaining our status, our popularity, and meeting the goals we have set ourselves. Let us pray for the grace to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. May we always follow where His word leads us without counting the cost. Amen. God bless you.