The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

Isaiah 66: 10-14c; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6: 14-18; St. Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

The passage in today’s Gospel is advice to the early Christian followers of Jesus that they are to travel light and keep a distance between themselves and their material possessions. Disciples travel light, totally dependent on other people for even their basic needs, they are sent in pairs and rely on the hospitality of people based on who will accept or not accept their message.

It is undoubtedly based on advice Jesus gave his followers during his public life when he sent them forth to prepare the way in the towns and cities he was planning to visit. It was not meant to be taken literally in an unrealistic way, but it was not meant to be dismissed as rhetoric either. Jesus and his companions had a treasury, we know, because Judas the treasurer was a thief and stole from it. The apostles appointed deacons to handle administration so the advice Jesus is giving his disciples today is not a ridiculous utopia. However the church today having enormous goods at its disposal, which generally are used well, is quite far from the ideal proposed by its Founder. There is a terrible danger that financial administration will be confused with religious leadership and pastoral accomplishment. There is a danger that our churches become rather the spiritual factories or religious industrial units where external accomplishment will be confused with the true and ultimate spiritual good. Jesus tries to warn us against this misunderstanding.

When we read this Gospel about Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples we naturally think also about vocations to the priesthood and religious life and I feel that this is particularly relevant to us. We are living in a society where material resources and economical planning are so essential and indispensable to daily life and to successful progress that we don’t believe that church will be able to survive without careful financial planning and scheduling. Many people listening to today’s teaching of Christ will simply smile with irony and perhaps even mockery or sarcasm. Who will be able to follow the poor and humble Christ of today’s Gospel when everybody is worried about financial arrangements and planning?

Maybe for these reasons we must realize that this problem of the shortage of vocations is mostly a “Western countries problem” and that it is primarily something for us to solve.

We can look for what we might call an external solution to this problem of vocations believing that if clerical celibacy was dropped or if the church admitted women to the priesthood the problem then would be solved. But if we do think that, then I think we are deluding ourselves.

It is known that other Christian communities who dropped the clerical celibacy and admitted women to the priesthood didn’t solve the problem at all, on the contrary they are experiencing not only the shortage of vocations, but what is more significant, they are losing their members as well. So, the solution is certainly not there.

I would like to suggest that the question of vocations is a question of faith. A vocation is not merely a matter of one person hearing God’s call and deciding of his own volition to answer that call. A vocation occurs within the community of faith, within the community which understands that the material and financial commodities are not the most important in the “preaching of God’s Kingdom”.

Make no mistake about it, God is calling people to the priesthood and to the religious life, but he is calling them through the words and actions of you and me. And He is calling them in our families and our communities. So let us not be timid, but let us share our faith with one another, let us pray for vocations and create the kind of atmosphere most conducive to the answering of that great call. Let us change our minds and try to see that what is essential to the church is not money, not in economical planning and not in good business administration.

Now we can ask ourselves, "How good are we as disciples ? Don’t we have burdens that weigh us down? Do our lives contradict our talk about Christ?" Let us leave the excess baggage … it’s making your journey an impossible one.

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