Thursday, July 12, 2018

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, Mark 6:7-13, Jesus sends the disciples out on their first mission to preach repentance, cure the sick and expel unclean spirits.   We do not know exactly where the disciples went or how long they were gone, but we do know that sometime later they reported to Jesus “all they had done and taught” (Mark 6:30).  The disciples, sent out two by two, traveled lightly, stayed with locals and apparently were very successful in their first missionary experience.  At this point in their spiritual development, the disciples became apostles.

A disciple is a follower or an imitator of someone, in this case a follower of Christ.  An apostle is a special messenger or an envoy, chosen and trained to fulfill a specific mission, spreading the good news.  The word apostle (apostolos) is Greek.  Translated into Latin, it is missio, from which we get the word missionary.  As baptized Christians, we are called to be both disciples and apostles.  We hear and accept the teaching of Jesus and then we share our faith with others.  In our second reading today from Ephesians 1:3-14, St. Paul reminds us that  each one of us is “chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”  

Our Church has an apostolic mission as well.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is "sent out" into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. "The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well." Indeed, we call an apostolate" every activity of the Mystical Body" that aims "to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth" (CCC 863). 

God placed us in Peachtree City, Georgia.  Our mission is to share the good news of the Kingdom of Christ right here. 

God of justice and mercy,
you have set us free from the evil of sin
by the life and death and rising again
of your living reflection and Word,
Jesus Christ.
Let his life and message inspire us
to voice his truth and bring his freedom
to everyone on this earth.
Give us no other assurance
than that we proclaim his Good News
and that our companion on the road is
your own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Back in 1651 Thomas Hobbs an English philosopher and political scientist produced his most seminal work, Levianthan.  I am not going to bore you with a discussion about Livianthian but one very famous line from the book popped into my head when I was reflecting on  today’s gospel from Mark 6:1-6. Hobbs believed that in its natural state (chaos and war) “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  In many ways this statement sums up the life of the prophet.

Early in his ministry Jesus went home.  And, as usual he went to his local synagogue to teach.  The locals were offended. Their response was basically, who does he think he is?  “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?”  Jesus’ response was,  “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”  Because of their “lack of faith,” Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.”

At least the home crowd did not try to kill Jesus as happened in many other places where he taught.  But ultimately, Jesus’ teaching and miracle working resulted in his crucifixion.  Most prophets meet with similar fates.  All three of today’s readings talk about the difficulty prophets face.  God told Ezekiel that the people to whom he was sent were “hard of face and obstinate of heart” (Ez 2:4). And St. Paul had  to contend with “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ” (2 Cor 12:10).

Modern prophets don’t fare much better.  Consider Martin Luther King Jr., Blessed Oscar Romero, Sr. Dorothy Stang, S.N.D. and Sr. Barbara Ann Ford, SC all gunned down for speaking out against injustice.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "The holy People of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office," above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it "unfailingly adheres to this faith . . . once for all delivered to the saints," and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ's witness in the midst of this world.

By our baptism we all are called to be prophets.  Being a prophet today isn’t easy.  Like Hobbs’ person living in a state of nature, the modern prophet runs the risk of living a life that is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.  But as St. Paul testified in today’s second reading, God gives us the assurance that “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

Gentle God of power and strength,
you chose us, weak people,
to put the mighty to shame
and to stand up and speak up
with our words and our lives
for what is right and good.

Make us realize more deeply that without your help
our human efforts cannot but fail
and that our very weakness
entitles us to your strength.
Be our courage and joy
through him who was weak with the weak
but lives with you as the Lord of all,
Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord for ever.