HOMILY FOR FOURTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

 

 Today’s gospel describes how Jesus sent his disciples out to towns and villages to prepare for his visit by giving them “travel tips” for their missionary journey. It reminds us that announcing the good news of the kingdom is not the task of only a few but is rather a task for all. Following the model of Jesus, the Church rejoices in the triumphs and accomplishments of her children. She constantly nourishes them, watches over them, consoles them and gives them strength.

In the first reading, Isaiah sees the city of Jerusalem as the prototype of the rejoicing church—a church who comforts her children, “as a mother comforts her baby son.” He assures his listeners that they live in the certainty of Yahweh’s promises of love, protection, prosperity and salvation.  In today’s second reading (Galatians 6: 14-18), Paul clearly teaches that it was Jesus’ death on the cross, which brings us salvation and not his Jewish heritage. He reminds us that every Christian is called to be a “new creature,” and the mission of each member of the Church is to bear witness to the saving power of the cross of Christ through a life of sacrificial and self-giving service. Today’s gospel we see when Jesus sent out his disciples to continue his work, he gave them definite directions. Afterwards, they returned in a spirit of celebration, to report their missionary success.

At election times, we often get literature in the post, or through social media, or we have someone call to the door, to canvass our vote. The canvassers, who usually travel in twos, will be well briefed, and they have their arguments polished and ready. Since they are representing the election candidate, and, therefore, stay “on message”, echoing the political manifesto of the candidate’s party. On a regular basis, they return to headquarters to report on progress. Today’s gospel is about a deeper target than vote-seeking votes, but there are similarities. He sent them out in pairs. Although Jesus called each one individually, he never sent missionaries out alone. There are just two episodes when an apostle went out alone: one was to betray him, the other ended up denying him. The support of others is essential to living the gospel. Even a hermit has to be commissioned by a community and must stay be in touch with that group.

Jesus sent them out like lambs among wolves. That wasn’t very encouraging, but they had a choice. They could preach a message that made people comfortable in their complacency; or they could preach the message of Jesus, that called for fundamental change. But he promised them the gift of healing, and they returned full of enthusiasm for the welcome they got at people’s doorsteps. They had obeyed Jesus, and it worked. They experienced for themselves his healing power. And further still, Jesus assured them that their names were registered in the heart of almighty God.

Our discipleship can be summed up in two phrases: “Come and see”  and “Go and tell.” If we have personally felt the value of having Jesus in our lives, we will want to tell others about him. There is a difference between witnessing and preaching. We are all called to witness, but not all are called to preach. Many good Christians would not brave to preach in public. But we can all bear witness to Christ, through the quality of our living. Let’s ask ourselves the challenging question attributed to G. K. Chesterton: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”.

As a disciple of Christ and servants of the Gospel, we must be prepared to share the cross of Christ. The total, self-emptying service shown by Christ shows us how to behave. We need a simple lifestyle, prepared for service and not tied to material things: “no purse, no haversack, no sandals.” Jesus rules out all pride and arrogance. Even those who reject Jesus should be loved and served in Jesus name. The generosity of God must remain our message. In an often unkind world, we can do our part only by remembering Jesus, staying close to him. Pope Francis encourages us to "bring Christ to man, and lead to an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Way, Truth and Life, truly present in the Church and contemporary in every man."

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