Monday, July 1, 2013

Homily - 14th Ordinary Sunday (Year C)

14th Ordinary Sunday (Year C)

First Reading: Isaiah 66:10-14c          Second Reading: Galatians 6:14-18            Gospel Reading: Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

One morning a little girl, dressed in spotless white, with a lovely bouquet of flowers in her hand, passed by a boy who was playing in the dusty street. The sight of this pretty girl stirred the spirit of mischief in the boy's heart and in no time a handful of dust struck the clean white dress and spattered on her shining shoes.
The girl stopped still. Her face flushed pink. Her lips trembled as if she would cry. But instead, a smile broke on her face and taking a flower from her bouquet, she handed it to the boy who stood waiting to see what she was going to do.
A more surprised boy no one ever saw or more heartily ashamed! He hung his head and his cheeks reddened under the tan and freckles. His unkind fun was quite spoiled because in return for a handful of dust someone had handed him a flower. 
How changed this world would be if everybody, big or small, acted like this little girl! “Lord make me a channel of your peace.”

Today is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. One word that occurs and is repeated in all the three readings of today is “peace.” Isaiah, in the First Reading, speaks of God sending 'flowing peace, like a river.' Paul, in the Second Reading, speaks of the peace and mercy that come to all who become that transformed person in Jesus Christ. And, in the Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples as lambs in the midst of wolves, and tells them to proclaim peace and to bring peace with them to every house they enter. This peace is not merely the absence of war or maintaining a balance of power between adversaries. This peace is not dependent on outside circumstances. It can exist even when we are surrounded by storms. It is the tranquility of order, it is the effect of justice and it is the effect of charity. And we all are called today to be peace-bearers.

In the First Reading of today, the Prophet Isaiah announces that the Messianic era will be characterized by its abundance of divine gift - it will be 'like a torrent of peace, like an overflowing stream.' It is to be an era that will gather together everything that is good – joy, happiness, consolation and the prosperity promised by God when Jerusalem was restored after the Babylonian exile. Here, the prophet sees the blessing in store for his people. They will know the joy of being God’s special people.
The holy city is like their mother. This is the image used in today's reading to tell the Israelite people how happy they will be when Jerusalem is restored. She knows how much they have suffered in exile. Now she will comfort and nourish them. It states, “That you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.”
Here, we are left with images of tenderness and cherishing and are given glimpses of a new way of seeing God. God is a God of might and power who delivers His people from exile and slavery - God as Father who will protect and defend His children. But God also protects and nurtures and, today, Isaiah offers us images of the Motherhood of God - As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah refers in these words to the Messiah, the bearer of that peace which is, at one and the same time, grace & eternal salvation for each individual and for the whole people of God. The new Jerusalem is an image of the Church and each one of us.

The Gospel Reading of today from St. Luke is a 'missionary text' and it tells us of the missionary work of the disciples, the persons who lived with Jesus and understood his mission and his work. Here, Jesus instructs his disciples to go quickly and travel light. They are to spread his peace, cure the sick, and proclaim the reign of God.
Disciples sent on a mission:
We are told that Jesus appointed seventy disciples and sent them on ahead of him two by two to every town and place where he himself intended to go:
The number 'seventy' here, has a symbolic reference. It refers to the seventy nations descended from Noah described in the Book of Genesis, to the number of the elders chosen by Moses with the task of leading and directing people in the wilderness, to the number of the Sanhedrin - the supreme council of the Jews. Moreover, seventy was also the number of the nations in the world considered at the time. Doesn't it speak of the universal character of Jesus' mission? Jesus sends all his disciples out in every direction to proclaim his Good News.
Secondly, Jesus sends out his disciples 'two by two' - in pairs, not as isolated individuals, but with a companion to share the journey with all its joys and sorrows. The number two also adds to the witness value which required the testimony of two people. Moreover, the sending out in twos mirrors the fact that God has sent His Son and His Spirit to reveal himself to us. A preaching community is a powerful sign not only through its words or works but also through the way that the members of the community relate to each other, through divinely-inspired love. In a sense, love is the proper language of mission for it is the language of God. When we live in the world as members of the body of Christ we are cemented together by the Spirit of love.
Also, there is a certain eschatological urgency indicating the harvest is ready and there is immediate need of the laborers.
Disciples to be peace-bearers:
The disciples sent on the mission are called to be peace-bearers; i.e. the core of their message must be peace. The peace that they are sent forth to bring comes from the sacrificial love of Christ, and it is the true peace welling up from within. The peace-bearing mission of Christ’s disciples, in reality, explains what Jesus is about and what the kingdom of God is about. The disciples have their mission for the kingdom carefully planned out for them by Jesus. It includes three things: first, they have to establish a community, a community of love. Second, they are called upon to heal those who are sick. Third, they are to announce that the kingdom of God is close at hand. Ultimately they are called upon to proclaim Jesus in their mission. If they are accepted their mission is complete, but if they are not made welcome, they are to move on. And as they go, they are to make it clear that they will not even take the dust from the streets with them. Those who have rejected them then will have a fate worse than Sodom, notorious for its lack of hospitality.
Disciples challenged by insecurity:
Jesus' call to be his disciple is always a challenge. The work of his followers is never going to be easy as they will be required to enter very precarious situations with absolute minimum equipment. On one hand, they will be like lambs being sent out to work among wolves – a dangerous and difficult mission. On the other hand, there is seriousness and hardship about carrying out his mission. They are never to indulge in distractions but they have to get on with their work. Jesus recommends his disciples as they go on their mission, not to weigh themselves down with all kinds of bags and baggage. Their security is not in material possessions, such as money and property. His advice is that the missionaries as they go to proclaim peace and kingdom take no walking staff, or a traveling bag or sandals, but trust fully in the divine providence. Their security comes from deep within, a security that no one or no circumstance can take away from them. What it means is that the true follower of Christ is one who trusts in Jesus completely and relies on him. To be a disciple is to be committed to the task and to be single-minded in purpose.
Disciples came back rejoicing:
The mission was dangerous and difficult, indeed challenging to the disciples. Marvelous things happened on their journeys, for the seventy went out and came back rejoicing at what they had accomplished in the name of Jesus. They discovered they could do the same things that Jesus was doing. They could do the healing, drive away demons and even bring dead to life. They were the extension of Jesus in every possible way. To be a laborer in the harvest means that the happiness of others is as important as your own. It is to be a bringer of peace to others. And in doing this the disciples' lives were transformed with the mission given to them.
Jesus shares their joy and says that they have indeed been given power through his name. But he tells them not to boast about the fruit of their work and reminds them – it is not the power, but the fact that their names are written in heaven, that they are destined for eternal life.

A few weeks ago, we heard that the community in Galatia had a few trouble-makers who were saying that the early Christians should observe Jewish Law as well - including the practice of circumcision. In the Second Reading of today, St. Paul, speaking to the Galatians, says that it does not matter if a person is circumcised or not. What does matter, says he, is “to become an altogether new creature,” a genuinely transformed person in the image of Jesus through his love, which is expressed through his death on the cross. So, he encourages them by saying that if one should boast about anything it should be about the cross of the Lord - for, all have been redeemed by Jesus through his cross. Christ's presence in the hearts of his followers is the beginning of true peace. Such peace brings with it rich fulfillment; it is not mere ease of life or absence of struggle. St. Paul affirms that Christ himself is our peace; to possess him and to love him is the origin of all true serenity.
In this Reading, we also hear St. Paul mentioning that he carried the marks of Jesus branded on his body. This does not mean that Paul had the marks of the cross of Christ on his body. Paul in fact was referring to all the suffering that he had to endure for Christ, and he believes that this fills him with no regrets but rather a deep peace and satisfaction and wishes everyone the same - “Peace and mercy be to all.”

The Gospel and the other readings tell us that we too have the task to proclaim the Kingdom. Like those seventy persons we too are called to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and this has to be done through our lives. It is necessary for us, therefore, to lend a listening ear to the sick and lonely, helpless and elderly and give them that consolation and healing. We have to give them the peace of Jesus.
The call of Jesus continues to come to us even today in our world and our task as Christians is to be bringers of peace to everyone we meet and everything we do - “LORD MAKE ME A CHANNEL OF YOUR PEACE.” Of course, we need that peace and inner security within ourselves first of all. It is a peace that a close following of Jesus can bring. It is a peace that our conventional society, wracked as it is with so many externally-caused stresses and fears and ambitions, seldom seems to know. Let Peace be our greeting and Peace be our hallmark. Peace is the sign of the presence of God’s kingdom. May the God of peace be in our hearts and in our homes today and every day. And this is the Good News of today.

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding homily Father! Thank you for sharing your insights. It is OK I may borrow some of it for the Weekly Reflection on my blog (with attribution of course).

    W. Ockham