I coach my son’s baseball team. These are young men who are incoming freshman this year and, as such, have all been playing baseball for a few years now. As a team we have been in a number of close games where every out and every hit matters. Imagine a game where we have the last bat in the bottom of an inning and are down a run. As each hitter steps into the batters box, I have coached them to focus on what the next pitch would most likely be, where our runners are on base, how every teammate should know what they will do regardless of where the ball goes. How successful do you think the hitter will be if he steps into the box and starts thinking about where they will go for pizza after the game or which friends may have sent him a text message?
In the readings this week two words come to mind: focus and urgency. In the first reading Elisha left and followed Elijah immediately to carry out the work of God and is scolded for asking to say goodbye to his parents first. In a similar way, Jesus coaches the followers in the Gospel to not look back once you have set your eyes to the Lord, saying, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Being a follower of Jesus Christ is hard. To get good at being a disciple – that is – to grow in personal holiness and lived compassion, requires daily focus, concentration and a sense of urgency. To take your eye off the Lord allows room for doubt and worry to creep in. As a coach of mine used to say, are you a contender or a pretender? It is for this reason that the Church asks us to pray daily, to serve others regularly and to speak freely about how you have come to learn that a life following Jesus is better than a life without Jesus. You are in spiritual training to help you improve focus and be ready whenever the time comes to be put to the test. For when that time comes, you will have no fear or anxiety and you will step into the spiritual batters box and be ready to make a play. Good Luck!