Jul 2, 2016

14th Sunday: On Mission

"Go on your way; behold I am sending you . . ."

Is 66: 10 – 14c
Gal 6: 14 – 18
Lk 10: 1-9

When we travel, especially if it is by plane these days, we want to travel as smoothly and safely as possible.  Our luggage may be far more minimal than in the past, for example.  Still, I recall on a pilgrimage to France about ten years ago, one of our pilgrims was a dear religious sister.  She had always dreamed of traveling to France and Lourdes in particular since her name was Sr. Bernadette. Now, her dream had finally come true.

When we met, she was in a beautiful modified black and white habit, veil and all.  I naturally thought to myself that her luggage would be minimal.  However, when we met at the airport, we all took a double take.  She was hauling two large suitcases along with a carry on and we all wondered, what does she have in there?  She was the type who would wear her habit pretty much all the time and indeed she did.  In fact, she was never not in her religious habit no matter where we went including on the plane of course.  So, what was in those bags?

She stated a second habit and warm coats not knowing what the weather would be like – it was mid-April not mid-January – and personal items.  Well, poor Sister, with some assistance from the men, trekked with the group through thick and thin, on and off planes, busses and trains and through security.  Maybe some helpful advice about traveling light would have been important for her but it was her first trip overseas and indeed she came prepared for anything. So too, our Gospel this Sunday continues even more specific advice about our “travel plans” as we walk the road of discipleship but it’s about less rather than more

For the last two Sunday's we have heard about carrying our daily cross (Lk  9: 18-24), following Jesus without hesitation when he calls in the many ways we hear God's invitation (Lk 9: 51-62) and this weekend about the urgency to move out and make the good news of Jesus known (Lk 10: 1-9). But, in order to follow him, we must be single focused and in the case of those sent out by the Lord, travel lightly, no extra baggage to weigh you down. . Still wouldn’t it be wise for us to prepare for the unexpected; to bring along some provisions and to make extra copies of important documents, etc.  . or isn’t this about something more than just a suitcase?

It is quite daunting on the level of personal conversion.  What Jesus asks of us are great challenges in a world that often speaks so persuasively against sacrifice, simplicity of life, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, and facing challenges even at the price of personal danger and threats. We are constantly inundated with advice about planning for the future as if everything depends on us alone.

So, Jesus' requirements in the Gospel this Sunday is far more about the message and mission we carry everywhere we go. It is about whose name we bear: Christian. Who we proclaim to follow – Jesus Christ and his Church.  Let nothing hold you back; travel light. Shuck off whatever is causing you to resist sharing the good news of the Gospel: the endless pursuit of wealth and material things, human attachments, lack of a spiritual life, a lazy practice of the faith, personal sin, an unforgiving attitude, prejudice, our own fear and doubt, or whatever is attached to us and prevents the journey we all walk as followers of Christ.

All of this is extra baggage; it weighs us down and resists the conversion to live by Gospel values.  If life seems heavy and complicated it may often be of our own making. How will the world be changed if Catholic/Christians are no different than others around them?  Why should it change if we become invisible and compromised?

In the case of our discipleship on mission, the 72 which Jesus sent out are challenged to rely totally on God's providence: "Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals and greet no one along the way . . ."  How reliant am I on God for all that I need?  Do I trust him as I walk in his ways? Sure, we take responsibility for our lives but in the larger picture, it all depends on him. Am I so filled with fear, anxious, because I do not really trust what God promises? After all, he honestly warns his disciples today: "I am sending you like lambs among wolves." 

Yet, there is urgency about sharing the good news. We do so through the right balance of things in our life: faith and God first, all else is second to that regardless of an alternative message that preaches contrary values. This seems to be the gist of Jesus' travel advice.

The prophet Isaiah in our first reading offers us a comforting image that God will always care for us.  “Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort . . .  As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Although there are tragic cases of mothers who harm their children, Isaiah’s image of a child in the safe arms of its mother could not be more reassuring.  God is both an ideal father and mother to us. Be not afraid!

Still, on this Independence Day weekend, we are rightly concerned about our safety. Attacks seem to come from all parts of the world that threaten our desire to live as a free and safe people.  The right to live in peace, to freely express our thoughts, hopes and dreams, to freely worship God according to our faith and to be productive citizens of this country is very much on our mind as we celebrate our Independence as a Nation.

Maybe Isaiah’s reassurance of God’s providence and Jesus’ call to trust on this Sunday and in this time can reinforce our faith, rather than threaten it.  We need to do our part absolutely but likewise turn to God for protection in prayer.  The journey we walk today may seem to be more precarious yet the good news of God’s love and mercy is our message.  On that we can rely for all things.  Peace be with you!

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy, 
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness. 

(Roman Missal: Collect of Mass)