17 Jul Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
God’s Mission. The Mission of the Church. Our Mission. These are the focus of today’s readings. Upon close examination it is important to realize that the Church doesn’t just have a Mission, the Church is mission…Going out…Being sent…is the very essence of who we are.
The mission Jesus gave his apostles in today’s Gospel was to reach out to others with the good news of salvation. Apostle literally means “to be sent.” Because of our baptism each and every one of us has a similar “apostolate,” a similar mission. We are sent to bear witness to Christ…To bring his wisdom and healing presence into every aspect of our lives…into our homes, our families, our friends, our colleagues at work, into our times of leisure. A very simple but good question to ask at the end of each day was: Did I bring Christ, was I Christ-like, in my home today, with my family, my friends, at work or in my times of leisure?
The missionary instructions that Christ gives to his first disciples in the gospel today apply to us as well. These instructions can be summed up in three words: Go, trust and persevere.
Go, actually intentionally be aware that our lives as followers of Christ are missions…to make Christ present wherever we are. We need a profound sense and trust of God as the absolute center of our lives, a deep sense that nothing is more important to us than God, that everything in our lives takes second place to our love for God. That is trust…and never giving up. Persevering. Even in face of opposition, persevering…we should expect persecution,…we should expect a cold welcome and not to be deterred.
If trust and perseverance are the key virtues for our lives as followers of Christ then we must realize we cannot fulfill our mission without them…… Throughout the ages all the spiritual writers and all the saints agree that the one sure way to strengthen our trust and persevere in our friendship with Christ is to make prayer the priority in our lives.
This is something that Pope Francis and each of the popes have never tired of reminding us. Our Catholic faith is a relationship, a friendship with the real and living person of Jesus Christ…Time must be spent each day for such a relationship, such a friendship to grow. Reading Scripture, especially the gospels is the normative way God has given us in which he speaks to us. Daily reading of the Scriptures is a must for all followers of Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI was in New York City in 2008 speaking to young people said: “What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer. God by his very nature speaks, hears, and replies. Indeed, Saint Paul reminds us: we can and should “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). Far from turning in on ourselves or withdrawing from the ups and downs of life, by praying we turn towards God and through him to each other, including the marginalized and those following ways other than God’s path (cf. Spe Salvi, 33).” Pope Benedict continued: “As the saints teach us so vividly, prayer becomes hope in action. Christ was their constant companion, with whom they conversed at every step of their journey for others.”
We are mission. Christ’s message must be offered. We only have the courage to offer it when we have built up our strength by raising our hearts and minds to Him in our daily prayer.
If Christ’s message is welcomed when offered then we continue in the example and teaching. If a house does not welcome us, Scripture says, shake off the dust on your feet and move on. Shaking the dust off the feet was a ritual that every Jew that had travelled beyond Israel would do when they returned to Israel. Symbolically they would shake off the ritual uncleanness they had incurred by coming into contact with non-believers.
All believers have an obligation to offer Christ’s message…to seize opportunities to speak about the Lord…we must do that…however, we cannot control how the message is received. If it is not…we move on. Indifference, Opposition, Persecution must be expected. It should not throw us or make us angry…it should not be feared. As Mother Teresa said: “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.”
The main enemy of trust and perseverance is fear. Fear prevents us from being Christ’s witnesses to the world. Simple fears…the Grace we all pray before meals in the privacy of our homes…often is omitted when out at a restaurant or at another gathering…such a simple thing…why? Fear. Not wanting to be seen as a Catholic in public. Afraid of what others will think? Not wanting to bring Christ into a situation where he might be less than welcome. Such a very basic, simple form of witness. Sometimes omitted because of fear.
Fears…not intervening at work or at home when someone is being spoken about uncharitably…Not speaking up in their defence or at the very least changing the conversation…not intervening at work or at home when someone is being treated unjustly!
We are most afraid of what others will think of us…True apostles…embody the Mission of Christ wherever they are…In whatever circumstance… knowing at times they will make others uncomfortable…knowing at times they themselves will be uncomfortable. True apostles know that they will be persecuted for Christ.
Such fear…Can only be overcome by trusting in God’s grace…In our First Reading, Amos, God’s chosen prophet was rejected by the very people to whom God sent him. Amos was a true prophet, beloved and chosen by God. His people did not listen to him, they insulted him and drove him away. Yet he trusted. He persevered.
Jesus knows his followers will be treated the same way and actually tells them how to behave when they are rejected.
Knowing that Christians will not always receive a warm welcome in this fallen world God calls us to be faithful any way,…to trust and persevere in what is right and good even when it is not popular, because, as today’s Psalm reminds us, trust and perseverance are how we will “see God’s kindness and experience his salvation.”
In light of the constant presence of persecution and the need to overcome fear …to trust and to persevere and be Christ-like no matter what and no matter where we find ourselves…Mother Teresa, St. Teresa of Calcutta, once wrote the following sayings on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta, India. She was someone who could only do what she did because she prayed often; her daily life was steeped in prayer. Pope Benedict would have said of her: “Christ was her constant companion, with whom she conversed at every step of her journey for others.”
This is Mother’s manifesto in how we are to be Christ-light in light of persecution in our fallen world:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the best you have anyway.
in the final analysis it is between you and God;
it was never between you and them anyway.
We are mission. Bringing God into all aspects of life. Trusting Him and persevering in that Trust in spite of any opposition.