Sunday, July 8, 2007

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C


Last Easter, the A&E Channel aired a series called “God or the Girl”. It was a reality mini-series that followed four young men as they discerned whether or not they were called to pursue a vocation to the priesthood. One of the young men, named Joe, had been discerning for over ten years. He was having an exceedingly difficult time determining whether or not God was calling him to the celibate life of a priest.

So, in order to clear his mind, Joe set off on a pilgrimage. With no money, no vehicle, and only the clothes on his back, he started walking on a 200 mile trek to a retreat center near Niagara Falls. He had no idea what the journey would entail, but he was confidant that God would be with him every step of the way.

The seventy-two commissioned by Christ in today’s Gospel were sent on the same kind of journey. They were told to rely on the hospitality of those along the way to survive. It was a frightening then as it is now, but there is part of me that thinks that it might be a bit liberating as well. After all, consider all of the ‘stuff’ that we surround ourselves with in today’s world. Do we really need it? If we believe that God will provide, shouldn’t we be able to set it all aside?

Isn’t it true that the stuff can get in the way in so many ways? Whether it is acquiring it, safeguarding it, or using it, material possessions can distract us from what is important in life. Young Joe discovered that as he went on his journey. By having nothing, he made himself vulnerable. But he also opened his life up to the charity of others. He was able to allow others to give of themselves in order to help him. And give they did. They provided him with meals, money, food, companionship, and prayers.

When Jesus sent the seventy-two out to spread the good news of his message, he understood that it was not simply enough to teach with words. By making sure that his messengers would require the support of the communities they visited, he set up a situation where those who received the news would have an immediate opportunity to put that lesson into action!

Those who were sent were not the apostles. They were part of the larger community of followers, and the way of life that he was teaching obviously made an impact on how they lived their lives. They became the leaven in the communities they visited.

We are called to do the same. Whether as a messenger of the gospel with nothing but the clothes on our backs, or as part of a community that receives and provides for such a messenger, today’s Gospel calls us to act. We are called to act charitably, but also to receive the charity of others.

In the end, Joe made it to his destination. His pilgrimage gave him the time and space to decide what God was calling him to do with his life. Although he had nothing, those along the way gave him what he needed. The message was clear: God will always provide what we need.

Joe did not decide to enter the seminary. However, the title of this program was a misnomer. It presupposes that the only way to love and serve God is as a member of the ordained clergy. We all know that that is far from true. Although several of the young men did not enter the priesthood, all four are still actively living out their baptismal call to serve. For example, Joe accepted a position as a lay campus minister, using his gifts and talents to help other young men and women discern God’s call in their lives. He is at peace with his decision, and can see that every step of the way, God continues to be with him.

We do not all have to take the dramatic steps that Joe took. However, Jesus is calling us to step out of our comfort zone in order to spread the Good News of the Gospel. Try a little experiment this week. Find an opportunity to go out on a limb without any support to do something kind for another person. It does not have to be costly, or dangerous for that matter. But it should be something that makes you a bit nervous or uncomfortable in some way.

I bet you will find that your fears will disappear before you know it. I bet that is what those disciples discovered. Sure, at first they were scared about traveling with no means of support. They could very well die! But after the first couple of villages, I am sure they discovered that God was with them. They were able to see His face in every man, woman and child who helped them along the way.

It makes you wonder, who was Jesus trying to teach with that mission: the folks in the villages, or those he sent?

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