Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, Joliet
Last week we saw that a prophet without honor is still a prophet, and that at times the prophet must leave behind those closest to him if they are hostile to their presence, calling, and mission.
In the Gospel this morning, Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out, two by two, to begin their preaching, teaching, and healing in His name.
He does not leave much room for discussion in his packing list:
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
The word Apostle means “one who is sent”, and in being sent in this way by Jesus, he is making it clear that the life they’d lived before he called them has now come to a definitive end. Their lives are beginning anew because Jesus has made them new. Jesus has called them out their own situations, their own towns and places and professions, and has given new meaning to their lives. These men have been prepared by Jesus, taught by Jesus, inspired by Jesus, renewed by Jesus, and now they are being sent out by Jesus to minister in the name of Jesus, to bring credence to his statement elsewhere in the Gospels that his followers “will do greater things” than him if they exercise their ministry in his name.
In that instruction, in that sending of the Apostles, the Lord reveals the other side of the coin from last week’s Gospel.
“Lord, it’s great that we’re going to go out in your name, and surely many will heed us and follow you, but what of those who don’t accept us in our mission?”
This must ring true for so many of us. I am terrified of going into someone’s home to minister, and I get nervous leading the meal prayer on Christmas because I wonder if my family would rather I just shut up so we can eat. I wonder if the people in the airport who see me in my collar would rather I’d have walked a different way so they didn’t need to see a priest. I am afraid of what I’ll encounter in the hospital room and whether the patient and her family would rather I went to a different room instead.
What of those who don’t accept me? What, Lord, of those who don’t accept you?
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
I can’t make you believe. Jesus could not make the disciples believe in him.
People follow Jesus because they possess a familiarity with Jesus that results in an enthusiasm for his presence, a recognition that the Living Christ is the literally the only person, the only One worth dying for and worth living for.
Familiarity with the Risen Jesus makes me believe that I can be new again, that I am good, that transformation is possible and that, by cooperating with him and trusting that he is who he says he is and that he remains faithful to his promises even when we break ours, I am being transformed.
Familiarity with Christ leads me deeper into the mystery of his presence and life, to the extent that I partake in his divine life. That I become like God, and live within his life.
But familiarity Christ only comes by leaning into every things in my life, the good and the bad. It means that with Jesus everything is on the table, nothing is hidden from him and nothing about us repulses him. It means that I must roll up my sleeves and take every single part of myself seriously, even the parts I’d rather didn’t exist.
“We continue our journey in search of familiarity with Christ through all the vicissitudes of living” and “therefore every circumstance we are called to live through is part of the journey toward this discovery.” (Carron)
This means that Jesus does not abandon us when we ignore his prophets, he does not abandon us when we abandon him in our sin. He does not stop pursuing us when we reject those he has sent to dwell with us.
This means that your son who won’t come with you to Mass anymore is not forgotten by Christ; this means that your daughter who is living with her boyfriend is not off the radar of God; this means that your dad who struggles with alcohol and mocks your faith is the beloved of God; this means that your struggle with drugs or pornography or cheating on tests does not repulse the King of kings.
This means that your best friend’s recent cancer diagnosis is not a sign of God’s abandonment; this means that your recent layoff is not a sign of God’s non-existence or vengeful wrath; this means certain politicians who do certain things are not certainly possessed by the devil and sent by him to bring the destruction of America.
It does mean that the ways of God are often mysterious, at best. It means that the meaning of all of this is not some analytic equation, some empirically verifiable solution waiting on the right mind to be cracked. It means that what we come to realize at the end of most every struggle – that things turn out alright in the end, that we’re stronger than we think, that things make sense when you let them run their course, that things are really quite beautiful when we take Jesus at his Word and trust him – it means that all these things we’ve come to realize are true; they are truer than true, and that even, no, especially in the midst of our own pain and in the minutiae of our lives the Lord sends his people to us, often two by two, to remind us of repentance, to drive away our demons, to make us well again.
Those who don’t accept us are no further away from the kingdom than we are; they’re just walking a different path. We can’t force people to believe, just like no one can force us to believe, but we can show our courage and integrity by continuing to live the life, to “walk the talk”, even when those around us don’t get it or push it away.
Why? Because if they mock it, or push it, or try to disprove it, this means that they see it. They see your faith, they see that in your struggle, in the vicissitude of your own life, you have come to know him and are becoming, more and more, all the time, familiar with him. And that by your familiarity with him, you are becoming more like him: patient, forgiving, merciful, compassionate, resolute, whole, unshakable.
Come back to the sacraments, confession and the Eucharist especially. Know what it is to be forgiven of the times you didn’t accept him into the home of your heart, and once again worthily eat his body and drink his blood and let him become your life and the source of your vigor.
When your life begins to look like the life of the prophet Amos, when people say to you
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of [Romeoville]!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in [Joliet]”
May you say with courage,
“I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a cook, and a maker of Grecian Ribeyes at Al’s.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
‘Go, prophesy to my people.’”
I was just doing my thing and living my life and the Lord God came into that life and into those things and made them new and made me his. The Lord God lives and walks among us and sends out his Spirit and renews the face of this earth.
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
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