'Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence....For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself..."' -- Galatians 5:13-14

No two biblical calls are exactly the same. Though they contain the same basic elements, each is just a little bit different.

In Sunday's first reading (I Kings 19:16b,19-21), for instance, Elijah permits Elisha to return home to kiss his mother and father goodbye -- something Jesus forbids His prospective disciple to do in our Gospel passage. Perhaps that's why it's good to zero in on the elements of the calls that are the same and apply to everyone, no matter his or her historical situation.

In every biblical call, God expects the person to change his or her basic focus. What they once thought important, they now relegate to the perimeter of their priorities; what they once kept on the periphery, they now put front and center.

At the start of His public ministry, the Gospel Jesus labels this turnabout "repentance" -- in Greek, "metanoia." In His mind, it's an essential personality trait in anyone who would dare follow Him, a 180-degree change in one's value system.

In the situation of receiving a call, it includes a demand that one's relationship with Jesus be more important than other relationships -- even relationships with our parents.

The classic passage on this topic is part of Sunday's Gospel (Luke 9:51-62). When Jesus invites someone to "Follow me," the man replies, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." Jesus stuns us with the response, "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Scholars remind us that most probably the man isn't on his way to the local funeral home to make arrangements for his deceased father. That's simply not how people were buried in Jesus' day and age.

Rather, he's telling Jesus, "I'll follow you, but because my father wouldn't understand such a drastic move, let me wait until he dies and I bury him. Then I'll follow you." That seems to be why Jesus says, "Let the dead bury their dead" -- in other words, "Haven't you noticed that your father, by not being part of my reform of Judaism, is already dead? Let someone just as dead as he is bury him. Nothing and no one, not even parents, should stop you from being truly alive."

Metanoia a must
Jesus presumes that, just as we must eventually die physically to enter eternal life, so we must die right here and now to receive life right here and now. And the main way He expects us to die is to undergo a metanoia.

In just what does the life the risen Jesus offers us today consist? In our Galatians (5:1,13-18) passage, Paul states his belief that it's a freedom we can't achieve any other way. "For freedom," the Apostle writes, "Christ set us free. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters."

Yet, because our basic meta­noia revolves around focusing on the importance of others, we're never free to put others down or use them for our own purposes. On the contrary, we're called and expected "to serve one another through love."

Other Christs simply can't go through life doing what we want.

We're to be as free as the historical Jesus was free, free to give Himself to those around Him, no matter the consequences. Such freedom eventually enabled Him to accept death for those others.

Perhaps many of us are willing to follow Jesus in certain areas of our daily lives which don't cost us very much. But few of us are willing to slaughter the yoke of oxen around which our peaceful lives revolve. We haven't quite yet achieved that kind of freedom.