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

Saturday, July 03, 2010

14 Ordinary Time - July 8, 2007

In the new creation of Jesus Christ, the church is the visible sign of God’s Kingdom. Let us recognize that very often we don’t se this reality, and we try to set up our private and personal procedures, so that the church goes according to our ideas and our principles.

Let us ask for pardon and deepening of our understanding of the reality of the Church.

Lord Jesus, you comfort us as a mother tends her children.
Lord, have mercy
Christ Jesus, you give us the bread from heaven.
Christ, have mercy
Lord Jesus, you offer us the victory of resurrection.
Lord, have mercy

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life. Amen.

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

The passage in today’s Gospel is an 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.

Did you ever hear the story of the twenty dollar bill and the loony? They finally met in the Canadian Treasury. After a long life, they had come to the end of their usefulness and were about to be destroyed. The twenty speaks, "I don't mind. I've had a good run. I have been in many excellent restaurants. I've been on great vacations. I've seen wonderful theater in my day." Then the twenty asks the loony: "How about you, pilgrim? What kind of a time have you had?" Downcast, the loony responded, "Lousy! I've spent most of my life at the bottom of collection baskets in Catholic churches."

In verse 4 of today's Gospel, Jesus addresses the disciples, whom He is sending out into the field, "Carry no purse, no backpacks, no sandals." Many people like to think that Jesus was endorsing poverty for His missionaries. But that is not the case at all. Rather, He is telling them that those among whom they labor will supply them with purses, backpacks, and sandals. In a word, He was encouraging His followers to be generous to those working among them.

And, should anyone miss His point, The Teacher says in verse 7, "The laborer deserves his wages." The former carpenter, who Himself had no doubt been cheated by deadbeat clients in Nazareth, was saying to contemporary Catholics, "Just as you pay the plumbers and house-painters who work in your home, support my messengers who build your spirits and my Church."

How does this advice from the Teacher compare with the facts? A recent study showed that while the average Catholic family donates 1% of its income to the church, its counterpart in the Presbyterian Church is giving 2.2% or more. That is of course two times what the Catholic family gives.

And, if anybody is anxious to take a guilt trip, do consider that the Mormons give 10% of their income to their church. And oftentimes they give two years of their lives working as missionaries.

Or how about this mind-boggling statistic? It is estimated that two million Seven Day Adventists give more money to their church for the missions than 800 million Catholics around the globe.

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 economic 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.

Celebrant: We come before God empty-handed, confident that our concerns will be heard.

Celebrant: God of peace, you send us into the world with the message of your Son. Hear and grant the prayers we offer through Christ our Lord.

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