We rarely like to think Jesus as distinguishing those who are suitable or fit for the Kingdom of God, and those who are not. We would much rather sing another verse of All are Welcome. It makes us feel better.
Today's gospel smacks us right in the face with an unexpected line that separates those who are fit and those who are not. The unfit he speaks of here are not murderers thieves or adulterers. They, after all, can be washed clean, their sins forgiven.
The unfit in today's gospel is the "one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind." Like Lot's wife in Genesis, or Elisha in the first reading, our natural tendency is to try and move forward while simultaneously holding on to the past. Today's gospel reminds us that we must pick ONE.
People will often describe mass celebrated using the older form as mass "where the priest had his back to the people." (Once again we're so vain we think its about us, the people) In reality, churches like St. Patrick's were built on an east-west axis, and the symbolism was that everyone including the priest faced one direction, east, the direction of the rising sun.
Should we learn from our mistakes? Of course, but that is different from holding on to them, ruminating on them. To be fit for the kingdom of God we must be people who move in only one direction, forward. We follow Jesus toward the Kingdom.
It is difficult. But the truth is that the past is gone, never to be recovered. When we look backward what do we actually see? Nothing but our imperfect memories, our selective imperfect constantly changing memories.
The Latin word for the state we hope for is beatus. It can be translated blessed or happy. If we are to be happy we must make the break.
In the first reading today we are told that Elisha took
the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.
On this last day of June can we do this? Whatever it is that we keep looking back at, pile it up and set fire to it, turn towards the Risen Son and walk forward. Then we will be fit for the Kingdom of God.