Excuses, excuses, excuses…
The word “excuse” is from Latin meaning to free yourself from blame. Sunday’s gospel lists the three classic excuses to total discipleship of Jesus. Nowadays we call total discipleship consecrated religious life or priesthood.
The first guy says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But the Lord points out his lack of discernment about the kind of life Jesus actually lives. This is the physical excuse. The guy who says “first let me go and bury my father” uses religious law to postpone following Jesus. This is the mental excuse. The last guy says, “let me first say farewell to those at home”, this guy can’t decide for himself but seeks the approval of his family and friends. This is the emotional/social excuse.
Such excuses may free us from feeling blame but they actually end up denying us life.
They come from the three sources of human intelligence, motivation and disposition: the head, the heart and the gut. By not discerning the first guy retains physical control of his life. Not to discern is a decision not to follow Jesus. By following a religious law, the second guy postpones following Jesus. Not to follow Jesus postpones the kingdom of God. By depending on the blessing of others at home the third guy misses out on the blessed life altogether. Not to follow Jesus weakens the integrity of family and society.
Each one of us majors in one of these centers and minors in the other two. The mind, the heart and the gut are drawn and fulfilled by the true, the good and the beautiful. But depending on how we judge the space between our joys and sorrows most of us settle for fear, shame and anger instead. Wherever we major, the way that we are most gifted in life, is also the place where we will be most defended against God, love and discipleship.
That is where our minors come in to help balance our major. The mind discerns how the body, -gut, can best follow Jesus. The mind helps the heart know which community’s blessing to seek and serve. The heart helps the mind to trust in God and others. The Heart helps the body respect the needs of the bodies of others including the body of creation. The body anchors the mind in reality. Through the body right relationships and justice are made incarnate.
We live in a time of widescale postponement. The levels of global debt, addiction and injustice all indicate an epidemic of postponement. One of the most tragic signs of this lies in how we have postponed switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy. What have we gotten for our excuses…
Let us then look to the place where most of our excuses come from and bring that part of ourselves to mercy by the other two. By accepting mercy for the ways that we have postponed entering into life we will be refreshed with new reasons to follow Jesus. Keeping both hands on the plough we will grow in our fitness for the kingdom of God.
Be honest and tell God how and why you postpone embracing your vocation and then ask yourself what you have really gotten in exchange for your excuses.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director OMI Lacombe Canada Province
Feel free to contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at email@example.com to arrange for an appointment.