The Call of St Matthew: Marinus van Reymerswaele (1490–1546), 1530; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Fr Neil’s homily on the Second Sunday after Trinity, 26 June 2022

For freedom Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.¹

In the calling of Elisha², Elijah cast his mantle upon Elisha’s shoulders. That cloak is only taken up a second time after Elijah is swept up into heaven. The cloak, a bit like the chasuble the priest wears, marks and symbolises the office of prophet that an individual is called to. For Elisha his individuality is submitted to the office of prophet as the priest’s own personality is only at the service of the office of priesthood. Any respect or honour due is directed towards the office and not the individual who holds the office.

In baptism we are clothed with Christ or we put on Christ, symbolised by the white garment that is wrapped around the individual. We take on the mantle and life of Christ so that we might stand in a state of freedom from the consequence of the Fall. We bear the office of the citizens of heaven which carries a particular dignity, not for our own sakes, but because as Christians we are icons of Christ.

St Paul’s warning not to submit again to the yoke of slavery acknowledges how easy it is to find ourselves dancing to the tune of the world’s values, rather than the beautiful chant of heavenly joy. For example, through fear, ignorance or misguided good intentions, many Christians at work wear rainbow lanyards and badges. While we always need compassion, sensitivity and understanding we cannot endorse a societal morality that stands directly in opposition to the eternal revealed truth of God. To do so is to deny Christ and the means of grace that he has revealed which leads to freedom and everlasting life. Nor are we to be like the “sons of thunder”, James and John, who wish to call down fire to destroy the Samaritan village for not receiving Christ³; our Lord rightly rebukes them. The only fire that will come down from heaven is in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who will ‘clothe us with power from on high’. It is the Spirit who animates us as the children of God with the gifts that we need to bear witness to the Good News of our salvation in Christ.

A Facebook post that I liked highlights the difference between the true compassion of Christ and a false representation of his empathy. It stated

Jesus didn’t eat with tax collectors and sinners [that’s you and me] because he wanted to appear inclusive, tolerant and accepting. He ate with them to call them to a changed and fruitful life, to die to self and live for Him. His call is transformation of life not affirmation of identity.

St Paul tells us that we need to guard ourselves unless we are to slip back into the slavery of sin and death. Sometimes it is all to easy — even without thinking — to find ourselves following the voice of the world at large. He reminds us that we need to walk in step with the Holy Spirit as He alone can reveal the way of eternal life.

Christ himself has told that that it is ‘the truth that will set you free’⁴ and that ‘perfect love drives out all fear’⁵. The way of discipleship isn’t the easy way and may well lead us into a position where we find ourselves in direct opposition to the world. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other.”

We can often find that we might indeed understand Christ’s words of warning to those who follow him: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”⁶ At times we can be so at odds with the world that we might feel like unwelcome aliens and strangers who have no place in society.

However, having set our hands to the plough we need to fix our eyes on Christ, steadfast in the Spirit, as he set his face towards Jerusalem. For He has called us to make His faith our own — to abide in confidence that He will not abandon us, that He will show us “the path to life,” leading us to the fullness of joy, the heavenly Jerusalem, in His presence forever.

¹ Galatians 5:1
² 1 Kings 19:16–21
³ Luke 9:54
⁴ John 8:32
⁵ 1 John 4:18
⁶ Luke 9:58