Cycle C 13th Sunday in the ordinary times
1 Kgs. 19:16b, 19-21; Gal. 5:1, 13-18; Lk. 9:51-62
The Indian Epics narrate many amazing stories about the dedication of the disciples to their masters. The story of Ekalavya in Mahabharata is such an amazing one. Ekalavya is introduced as a young prince. He lived near the ashram of Drona, where Pandavas princes and Kaurava princes used to take lessons in various arts. He had great desire to learn the art of archery from Dronacharya. But Drona would not accept him as his disciple. But the boy was not to be put off; his determination knew no bounds.
Ekalavya went off into the forest where he fashioned a clay statue of Drona. Worshipping the statue as his preceptor, he began a disciplined program of self-study. As a result, Ekalavya became an archer of exceptional prowess.
One day while Ekalavya was practicing, he heard a dog barking. Ekalavya fired seven arrows in rapid succession to fill the dog's mouth without injuring it. The Princes were surprised. They asked him who his master was. He replied that His “Guru” was Dronacharya. When Drona heard of it he went to see his unknown disciple.
He found Ekalavya diligently practicing archery. Seeing Drona, Ekalavya prostrated himself and clasped the teacher's hands, awaiting his order. Drona asked Ekalavya for his Gurudakshina, the deed of gratitude a student owed his teacher upon the completion of his training. Ekalavya replied that there was nothing he would not give his teacher. Drona said, “Give me your right thumb.” Without hesitation he cut off his right thumb and handed it to Drona.
Today’s readings speak to us about the cost of discipleship. In today’s first reading we find that Elisha is called by Elijah to move into an unknown future. In the Gospel, we find the challenge to move beyond the ties of family loyalty and affection into commitments outside the pale of our immediate families.
The call of Jesus to discipleship was characterized by complete self renunciation. The response has to be immediate and unconditional. Jesus did not allow them time for a second thought. He called Peter, and Peter left everything and followed Him. The man who accepted Jesus invitation to follow Him, but requested Him to let him go to bury his father first, Jesus gave an answer which surprises us:
“Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus disciples had to leave all else in order to be with Jesus (Mark 3:14). Once the decision is made it is final (Lk (:62) “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”
Secondly, Jesus’ call to His disciples hip meant a call to mission. Jesus prepared them to go out into the world and catch men. He said to peter, “I will make you fishers of men.” The mission Jesus entrusted to His disciples was to bear witness to His own life and teaching. He wanted them to preach to the people as he preached the mercy of God; He wanted them to heal the sick as he had healed the people who came to him for comfort; He wanted them to feed the people as he had fed the crowd; He wanted them to raise the dead, as he had raised Lazarus, He wanted them to suffer for the sake of the Kingdom of God, as He would suffer on the cross.
Thirdly, the discipleship of Jesus is unique in the magnitude of its reward. He said to them, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”