July 2nd, 2017

Homily by Archbishop Brendan O’Brien

St. Mary’s Cathedral

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel, part of which we have just heard, contains what is known as the ‘missionary discourse’.  It contains advice and perspective for those whom Jesus is sending out to share the Good News.  The disciples are to act as envoys of Jesus, extending his ministry, proclaiming the same good news and performing the same works of healing that he is doing.  Jesus’s further instructions make clear that the disciples are also to share in his poverty and homelessness, taking with them no money or extra clothing, and depending solely on the hospitality of others for shelter and sustenance.


Jesus makes it clear that they will not be welcomed everywhere, and that they can expect to experience the same hostility that Jesus often does, for he is sending them out “like sheep into the midst of wolves”.  They can expect to encounter persecution and trials, for “a disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master”.  They need also to be prepared for painful division within families, and to be willing to put Jesus’s mission above family loyalties.  For all of this risk and suffering, Jesus promises, “those who lose their life for my sake will find it”.


Matthew, of course, is not only recalling Jesus’s instructions to his first disciples; he is also speaking to his own community of disciples a few generations later.  There is still need to send out labourers into the harvest, to send missionaries out beyond the community into a perilous world.  And those sent will still need to depend on the hospitality of others.  Jesus says of those who enact such hospitality, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.


Two words help us to grasp the overall theme of today’s Scripture readings, and they are the words ‘send’ and ‘receive’.  Both of these can apply to us .


The first is the word ‘send’. Pope Francis refers to members of the Church today as ‘missionary disciples’, not just parishioners or members.  There is a certain growing awareness in the Church that the Church is not just meant to be, but exists to go out, to reach out to others.


One author asks:

“What would happen if we stopped expecting people to come on their own initiative through our church doors, and instead took seriously our calling to bring the gospel to them?  What would happen if we truly believed that we bear the presence of Christ to every person we encounter, in every home, workplace, or neighbourhood we enter?  What would happen if we saw every conversation as an opportunity to speak words of grace, every interaction as an opportunity to embody Christ’s love for the neighbour?”


The other word which helps us to grasp the overall meaning of today’s Scripture is the word ‘receive’.  We need to be open and ready to receive those who bring us God’s word.  Just as the woman in the first reading recognized Elisha as a holy man of God and welcomed him, provided for him, and was rewarded, so we need to be open and welcoming to those who, through their words and actions, reveal God’s call to us – and, when we do so, even in the smallest way, we too will be rewarded.


In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and, so, we should see ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.  However, we must constantly strive to become that real self that baptism has made us.


There are many ways in which each of us, according to our gifts and position in life, are being asked to consider these words ‘send’ and ‘receive’.  We don’t all have to be full-time missionaries undergoing great hardships to spread the gospel, but we all are being asked to have a sense of mission and responsibility for seeing that the Good News can touch people’s lives by our word and example.  There are also ways in which we can ‘receive’ –  that is, facilitate the efforts of those who are taking a more active role in sharing the faith. We do this by our encouragement and our material support, so that they can devote their time to this ministry.


More and more, we realize that the Church is called to be more active in reaching out to people.  We need to let the message of faith get out there, not just to missionary lands, but here at home where the message needs to be heard again in a new way, and the experience of God’s presence and help can change lives.  We should expect that, like Jesus and like his early disciples, our efforts may be met sometimes with misunderstanding, hostility, or apathy.  However, we have something to offer that many people are in need of today.  May this inspire us to persevere.


Explanation of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Our second reading today spoke of baptism, in which God consecrates us.  He makes us his adoptive children and confers on us a share in the divine life.  In response, we consecrate ourselves to God.  We do so each Easter when we renew our baptismal promises.


When we speak of consecrating ourselves or our country to the Blessed Mother, it means that we are entrusting ourselves to her maternal care and protection, that we may benefit from her intercession and join our efforts to her powerful prayers and closeness to Jesus.  The mother of Jesus always leads us to him, so that the more that we are trustingly and lovingly devoted to her, the more we are conformed to and united with her Son and the Spirit.  Since God the Father willed that the Saviour would come to us through the loving consent and active faith of the Mother of God, so we return to him with the aid and accompaniment of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Canada, we ask Mary to watch over us and our country as we begin a new era in our history.  We ask that our country may be protected, that our people may be more disposed to the Good News of salvation, and that we will recognize our responsibility to build a just society among the many social changes that will come our way in the future.