Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Freedom and Following

Sunday's Mass readings revolve around the idea of Freedom and what it is, starting with the calling of Elisha by Elijah in I Kings 19:16, 19-21.  What hits me most about this reading is that, even though Elisha would like to tell his parents good-bye, he is willing to kill his yoke of oxen, cook it by torching his plowing equipment, and then uses the meat to feed the other workers there.  From my perspective, Elisha uses a scorched earth policy....It is almost like he knows that, if he leaves the yoke and oxen still there, he will go back to his old life, not continue to follow God's plan for his life.  All of us have those areas, I think...relationships, habits, time wasters, etc.  that the only way we can root them out of our lives is to scorch the earth with God's cleansing fire.

As some of you know, I am in the process of transitioning to a carless existence, partly because I can, and partly because I need to pay off some debts in order to go back to school, and this is the best way to do so that I can think of.  It has meant changing some of my routines, and learning to get up earlier than I am used to, but it is nice to let someone else fight traffic while I use the time to read, pray, and even update this blog!  I have to say that I am looking forward to being carless, partly because getting rid of THINGS is freeing on its own....ever since I heard about the 100 item challenge a few years ago, I've always wondered if I could be content with under 100 personal items, including clothes.  Really, I tend to wear the same outfits over and over, anyway, so why keep the clothes I might wear only once a year or less? Honestly, I doubt I could get to that small a number of items, but I could probably get down to like 200, if I were to work at it....do I really need like 30 pair of socks and 20 t-shirts (this is an exaggeration--I have no idea how many of either I have, but I do know that it is more than I really need)? In some ways, I am already working on this because I have started only buying digital books rather than hard copies, and have begun doing the same for music.  I prefer to rent DVDs  or stream movies/shows rather than own them, and I haven't touched the DVDs I own since my ex moved out.  I'm not ready to get rid of the DVDs I own yet, but I see it happening in the future, especially if I ever take the time to make sure that all of them are available via Netflix.  Not quite a true scorched earth policy, but I suspect that there is a bit of an ascetic living in me underneath all this stuff.  

Of course, Elisha's sacrificing of his yoke of oxen and his plow was more than just getting rid of stuff.  That is only part of the puzzle--I can't just move away from, but I also need to move TO something. Elisha's actions were a declaration of allegiance to God and His plan.  This is why all religious orders require you to make a vow of poverty...it is a way to consciously choose to put Christ above all else.   And, I think this is where the second reading from Gal. 5:1, 13-18 and the gospel message in Luke 9:51-62 come in.  One of the things St. Paul says is that we shouldn't let ourselves get put back into slavery because, when Christ sets us free, we are truly and completely free--and that freedom comes from following Christ and loving our neighbor.  Today, a friend posted this blog post on her Facebook wall, and I feel like it ties into this--it is more than just avoiding issues where we might be tempted, as this blogger mentions, but we have to rely on God to help us change our attitudes.

What I found most interesting about the gospel reading was that one of the disciples says something similar to what Elisha says to Elijah, "let me go say goodbye to my parents, first". And Jesus tells the man that he shouldn't look back, just like a man guiding a plow shouldn't look back if he wants to create a straight furrow.  I've never completely understood this passage--It is one of those times when I wish we could see what Jesus' facial expression was, just as I wish I could have seen the face of the man.  You almost get the impression that this particular disciple was looking for an excuse to leave and never come back, so Jesus calls him on it.

I don't think I have it in me to torch all of my stuff in order to follow Christ, like Elisha did, but I can consciously live with less, and in the process, ask the Lord to help me draw closer to Him.  I believe that living without a car is a good first step.