• Isaiah 66: 10-14 • Galatians 6: 14-18 • Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20 • 14 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Scripture Readings: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 07.07.2013
I presume you are aware of the growing shortage of ordained members of our Catholic household of faith. If you are not, then check out the recent pastoral appointments published by Bishop Thomas. Pastors of urban parishes are now being assigned to serve multiple rural parishes at the same time. Opinions may vary about this situation. I certainly have my own. I wonder if this shortage of ordained may be a blessing in disguise.
Jesus of Nazareth found God in all things and all things in God. Clearly he devoted his life and energy to proclaiming “the kingdom of God.” I think with that phrase he was awakening us to a “new reality” that is emerging among us. It is visible wherever human misery is diminished and people are bonded in love. He only hints of how that kingdom might be fully realized in time and history. I think today’s gospel text provides one of those hints.
“The Lord sent ‘seventy-two’ ahead of him to every town and place he intended to visit.” Their task was the same as his. They were to announce, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” This is great news! God is working in us to make life more humane for everyone.
We have no idea who these seventy-two people were. We presume they were “ordinary folks,” like you, sent to be humble, kind, patient and loving. We do know that for more than two centuries, ordinary folks like you influenced the wider culture in which they lived. Christian communities flourished. “God’s new reality” was bursting forth.
Then the emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire. The institutional church was born. The vision so passionately pursued by Jesus was corrupted. The sword replaced his message of peace. “Violence is any way one uses to control another through fear and intimation.” Violence replaced the humility, kindness, patience and love that characterized his way. The separation of clergy and laity followed.
Eventually the “holy Roman empire” fell apart into separate nations and political kingdoms. During those centuries of disintegration our ancestors yearned for a world in which people would live well.
That yearning continues to echo in us. Various “utopias” have been proposed. Socialism promised equality. Communism promised middle-class status. Democracy promised freedom. Capitalism promised universal prosperity.
Every utopian dream that has been tried, including that of Constantine, eventually resorted to violence. Violence inevitably leads to a failed dream. The only dream still remaining has barely been tried. It is the dream of Jesus about “the kingdom of God.”
It seems quite obvious to me that today’s greatest challenge for those claiming the identity of “Christian” is to recover our purpose as church. This means letting go of the idea that “church” is about “saving my soul;” about the next life and heaven.
I think our current situation in which the number of ordained in our Catholic household of faith are decreasing is a blessing in disguise. I think this situation is beginning to force us to rediscover and reclaim what it means to be “Church.” “Church” is about being Christ for others and doing all in our power to bring forth “God’s new reality.” It is about replacing discrimination with equality; replacing domination with mutuality; and being in solidarity with all who are marginalized or violated at any level of life.
In “sending the seventy-two ahead of him,” Luke’s Jesus directed them, “carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” In other words, “let go” of as many forms of control as possible. Go out “like lambs among wolves,” and love people. Find God in all things and all things in God.
The good news we celebrate today is that you have listened and are among the seventy-two now stretched around this planet. “The kingdom of God is at hand” — God is working in you to make life more humane for everyone. Thank you for being “church!”