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Terrance KleinJune 22, 2022
A Volkswagen pickup truck in a field of grain under a stormy gray sky.(Unsplash/Daniel de Lima)

A Reflection for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Kings 19:16b, 19-21 Galatians 5:1, 13-18 Luke 9:51-62

It is not true that in a rural county everyone knows everybody, though it comes close to the case to say that everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

For years, while driving between parishes in the evenings, I would encounter a pickup truck parked in a field across from an empty country church. A man would be sitting in the cab, his face illuminated by the glow of a computer screen. It seemed a lonely place to be, especially on cold evenings.

Eventually, I had to ask. Not him, but his neighbors. What was he doing out there? The answer was that his old bachelor’s house had fallen into such decrepitude that he preferred to sit in his pickup truck in the evening.

If you do not give yourself to anything in life—person, family, country or church—you make nothing of your life.

Now, after that man’s death, I pass another farmer on the same route, sitting roadside in his pickup, though this time in the early mornings. I know that neither his house nor his wife is in disrepair, so eventually I did ask him what he is doing out there. This is what he told me: “I like to sit in the field, looking at the distant steeple. I say my rosary. I find it very peaceful.”

When Elisha asks the prophet Elijah for permission to say a proper farewell to his family, the old man interprets the young one to be wavering, and he offers a sardonic response: “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” (1 Kgs 19:20). “Make a choice” is the message of Jesus as well.

No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind
is fit for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62).

A life lived in the Gospel makes demands upon us. If it does not, we need to look again. Maybe we are not living such a life.

The claim upon us comes from the nature of human freedom itself. We tend to think of freedom, especially in our contemporary Western culture, as “freedom from.” We are endowed with liberty, and it should not be infringed.

A life lived in the Gospel makes demands upon us. If it does not, we need to look again. Maybe we are not living such a life.

Good enough, but there is also “freedom for.” If you do not give yourself to anything in life—person, family, country or church—you make nothing of your life. You wander through it without a home for your heart. You have remained free, unattached and unencumbered, but who have you become?

St. Paul told the Galatians:

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love (5:13).

Whatever we are doing, or failing to do, for the kingdom, whatever our moral state, following Jesus, first and foremost, is entering into prayer. And so, my farmer friend sits in his pickup, early in the morning. So many things he could be doing. But perhaps he understands this basic fact of human nature: What we do is who we become.

He has his own oxen and plow to worry about, but they can wait a bit. First thing in the morning, he takes time to remember who he wants to be: a companion of Jesus.

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