“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. …. you were called to freedom.”

This is the crux of Paul’s teaching in TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [GALATIANS 5: 1. 13 – 18].Notice how Paul emphasises the word freedom which he uses three times in a few verses.

Now if we take into account both our

OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [1 KINGS 19: 16b. 19 – 21] and TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 9: 51 – 62] an important question and challenge for reflection would be: how free is my Christian discipleship from a slavery to (a) custom and (b) conditions which are self-imposed?

An openness to change and adaptation produces the best fertile ground for the freedom to grow in discipleship and faithfulness to the Lord.

In the first place we should never confuse custom with tradition. Many Catholics proclaim boldly that something or other is the ‘tradition of the Church’ when in point of fact they are speaking about a particular custom or ‘way of doing it’ which has actually only been in existence over a relatively short period of time. In fact they have never experienced other customs. Did you know that there are particular traditions in the Church which have very different customs?

These traditions are just as Roman Catholic as our own so-called Roman Rite. For example some of these traditions have the custom of including First Communion and Confirmation during the rite of infant Baptism. Yes, the baby is given Communion for the first time immediately after baptism. This is done by ingesting a small amount of the Precious Blood (not the Host) by means of a tiny teaspoon!

Tradition is not intended to shackle us to the past. Rather, it is meant to change us. Otherwise, we cannot grow. Long-standing customs may well offer a sense of order and defence against self-imposed conditions but a really Christian-Catholic culture escapes us. Unless we are willing to experience the breakdown of the predictable and customary approach there will be no growth. So, do we know our own tradition? How deeply have we gone into ourselves? Do we see all the levels? We must not become slaves to custom.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. …. you were called to freedom.”

Now take another look at the teaching of our Old Testament and Gospel extracts. In the former we read about Elisha’s conditional response to the Lord’s call:

“Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” This was a condition based on a serious custom. If his approach had been acceptable to Elijah a serious disruption of God’s plan would have occurred. As TODAY’S PSALM [16] asks is it the Lord who gives us counsel and directs our hearts or are we prisoners to self-imposed conditions of sentiment – to the way I have always done it? The Psalm also gives an assurance that the Lord “will show me the path of life.”We are not always certain of the results but this is not an excuse for being stubbornly attached to custom. Our Gospel makes the risk of change in direction very clear: “foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

The first verses of our Gospel reading are also important. The disciples seem to have become prophets of doom and subject to tunnel vision. This is not the way for us. They are challenged to change their approach and head in a different direction. They were rebuked by Jesus and he led them

“to another village.”

It is the Lord himself who secures our lot. In ‘another village’ we often experience the sametradition but participate with, in, and by different customs. When we actually take the plunge we usually discover, to our surprise, that we enjoy the change.

“And so, my heart rejoices, my soul is glad.”


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