The Mantle of Love
(reflection on Mass readings for 12th Sunday Ordinary "C")
by: Deacon Paul Rooney
The Church did well to link together today's First Reading (1 Kings 19:16b,19-21) and Gospel (Luke 9:51-62), because they both point to the same theme.
God calls Elisha, through the prophet Elijah, to become his special servant. In the story, the "call" is symbolized with the passing of the mantle from the prophet to the candidate. It is a call to carry the word of God to others. So that he would not change his mind through human weakness, Elisha "burns his bridges" behind him. He slaughters his oxen; uses the wooden plows as fuel for cooking the oxen; and then gave the food away. He was now fully prepared to follow his call, to honor his commitment to become a servant of God by being a servant of God's prophet Elijah.
When we follow this "commitment-bridge" to the gospel today, we see Jesus advising those who want to follow him to check their priorities and the reality of their commitment. There is no turning back, once you accept Jesus as your Master and choose to answer his call to become his servant. He uses a farming image to convey the consequences of laxity in this matter. If a farmer is plowing a field and is constantly "looking back" to see what he has been doing, his rows will become crooked. Just so the Christian's call. He must totally focus on the goal, the path to be strictly followed, and commit his efforts totally to the task at hand.
Jesus illustrated the importance of commitment, by "setting his face" to go to Jerusalem. He chose to say "yes" to his Father's will, even when he knew it would lead to his passion and death. He had put his hand to the plow without looking back.
So it is with us. It is not just a matter of believing in Jesus, being baptized and confirmed, and that's the end of it, claiming self-righteously: "I've been saved!" No, now the task is just beginning! As St. Paul teaches, we still have to work out our salvation every single day. In particular, we are all called, without exception, to continue the mission of Jesus, to plow our own fields, to proclaim the Good News of God's love and mercy. How we do that depends on our state of life, and the gifts that God has freely given to us. But God can take the little that we have to offer, and turn it into a great abundance for the growth of God's people. If we do not put our hand to the plow and work diligently for the kingdom of God by the way we live and serve, then our faith will grow lax and we will not become a light that the world desperately needs to see through our Christian witness.
The "mantle" of Elijah and Elisha continues symbolically to this day. Specifically it appears in the form of the cape worn by monks and bishops, and the cope worn by the presider at Benediction. It shows their commitment to serve, the commitment of love by these ordained men to the mission of Jesus.
There is one other "mantle" we can count on, the "mantle of Mary." Our
Blessed Mother taught us what true commitment means, when she said "yes" to God at the time of the annunciation by the Angel Gabriel. Her mantle of love will protect us! A good prayer for us is this: Dear Mother Mary, please place your mantle of motherly love around me and my family, and protect us with your intercessory prayers of love. Please ask your Most Beloved Spouse, the Holy Spirit, to transform us all into the image of your Son, Jesus!
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