Anointing, call, farewell requests, plough, freedom, etc. pop up in today’s readings. Without waiting for a prior consent, God sends Elijah to anoint Elisha as the prophet. Apparently God has the ‘least respect’ for Elisha’s freedom! In the gospel one’s request to follow is rejected by Jesus, while he calls two others whom he denies their desire and ‘legitimate’ request to bid farewell to their dear ones. The same denial is given to Elisha by God through the Prophet Elijah. St. Paul tells us today,
“we are called to freedom, brothers and sisters” (Galatians 5:13).
Are we looking at the same God who gave us our freedom, which he refuses to take back from us?
Strange, isn’t it? Yes, it is the same God. He has a powerful and wonderful style to teach us the winning techniques. True freedom doesn’t come easy. It has to be earned through waging a war, taking the trouble, going through hardships, suffering and even death. One can achieve truly liberating freedom only by denying to the self whatever is selfish, gratification of the self, self-indulgence, and the like.
Paul’s shortcut to win true freedom is love through which one has to ‘become slaves to one another’. All the above denials by Jesus and Prophet Elijah are clear examples of such self-denial and means of finding true freedom. Self-denial also involves rejecting our family ties, our possessions, even the very tools of our trade, as Elijah’s example, and in the examples of the disciples ‘leaving everything and following him’ show, and what we call individual freedom. Denial of the self is in order to lead many into true freedom. That is the purpose of taking up a mission for God.
God is the giver of our freedom. He is also the liberator, all the time busy with liberating humans fettered in their slavery to sin, selfish passions, and desires for wealth, conquest and power mostly at the expense of others. God is calling us to be partners in his work of liberating. We hear a lot these days about freedom, choice, self-worth and self-respect. In most of such clamor for these, we come across the denial of the same to others by the very same claimants. Some foolishly presume that all these are absolutes, devoid of any relations, denying the fact of their own limitations and relatedness. Propriety and its opposite are often not considered in such clamor for freedom.