Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 3)

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 3)

We continue this week learning about what it means to be a “servant” of the Lord to someone who has been called. Last week, if you remember, Jesus was very hard ‘like flint’ in his call to the three young men. There was no time for them to say good-bye to anyone or to take care of other duties before they left home and begin to follow Jesus.  We also saw that this was because Jesus was beginning the trip to Jerusalem where he would die. Time was running out.

Today we don’t see as harsh a call, either in the first reading from Isaiah nor in the Gospel. What we do see today are the rewards for being a servant of God, for those called to a religious vocation specifically, but also for those who, like all of you, are called to evangelize in your daily lives.

The first reading uses beautiful imagery drawn from motherhood, images of consolation, feeding at the breast, drinking deeply with delight, being cradled, being bounced on a mother’s knee and being comforted. These are all promised to God’s servants. While I was away in Canada a few weeks ago, I celebrated my anniversary as a priest, and I have to admit that I have experienced many of these feelings working with all of you. I have what Isaiah would say is a “rejoicing heart” because of my work in this parish and in this community. That is not to say that I haven’t travelled with you through many difficult times dealing with sickness or death or disappointment, but the contentment and joy I have felt much more than any negatives. Hopefully, you, too, will feel this more and more as you become servants of the Lord in the outreach we do in our little community.

In the reading from Galatians today, Paul talks about his ministry and that he sometimes had trouble from people, but in the long run what he has more than anything else is peace and mercy from his service to Jesus.

The Gospel today continues with Jesus appointing his disciples and giving them instructions on how they are to behave. He had already bestowed on them the ability to heal and to drive out devils. Now they are to travel all over and use these gifts.

The passage starts by saying that Jesus sent out seventy people in pairs. We don’t know that that was an actual number or was Luke’s way of having us remember that in Numbers, Moses chose seventy people to help him. Or it may be reminiscent of the seventy nations mentioned in Genesis. In any case, it is a cross reference to those priests or priestly nations that Luke is recalling.

Jesus sends them out two by two, which also is reminiscent of Genesis and Noah’s ark, and indeed the imagery is also of animals: “I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves”.

The other imagery Jesus uses is from farming. He tells the disciples that they are to go out and gather the harvest for the kingdom of heaven. And that we should pray for more laborers to do the same – there are a lot of souls to be saved!

Because this appointment of the seventy is given in Luke right when Jesus begins his final trip to Jerusalem, these disciples are also like messengers who are announcing Christ’s coming.  They go to all the places that Jesus was to go on his way to Jerusalem.  In that way they are like heralds announcing the arrival of a King. It raises one’s mission to a kingly one to have messengers announce his coming.

Then we have a list of instructions for the disciples. Once again there is a time element. There is not a lot of time for socializing. They need to get the work done. You just have to get on the road and get there.

They don’t have the time to pack a lot of things to take with them. No!  You get to take no purse, no bag, no sandals – just yourself and your message.

When you reach a house, you first of all offer the occupants “Peace”.  You are to accept their hospitality as your wage. Expect no money from them.

It is interesting at this point that Jesus seems to direct them to ignore any purity laws. They are to eat and drink what is put in front of them. This passage may have helped settle the later debates of whether Gentiles needed to follow the Jewish purification laws.

Next they are to get down to business.  There is no time to go from house to house to stay, but there are to go out and heal the sick in that community. And then move on.

If the village does not welcome the disciples, they are not to be judges. Wow. I wish people would hear this today. People are so quick to judge others! They are not to reign down fire on the village – as we saw last week when Jesus said that they were not to judge a place and curse it. There will be a judgment, but his disciples will not be the ones to judge and make that decision. Let THAT be a lesson to us!

So after this advice, the seventy go out and do what Jesus asks.  They come back to Jesus to report success in their preaching and healing. They seem quite proud of themselves that even demons were afraid of them.  But Jesus rebukes them not to be proud of what they could do, but only to be proud of the fact that they were doing God’s work and would attain heaven or eternal life. That’s what they should be happy about.

I have fallen into the same trap as the apostles, I think.  I worry that I am not doing enough and that our parish isn’t growing as I think it should, or that attendance some Sundays is very low. What this passage teaches me is that I have to continue to do the work in Jesus’ name and take pride only in the fact that I am doing his work and so, am on the right road to eternal life myself. It is quite humbling.

So, this week, I ask you to look at your motives. Why do you come to Mass? Is it because it is what you have been asked to do to stay on the road to heaven? Is it to glorify God and do what Jesus asked – to do this in memory of him?

Why do you contribute to charities, work on Stop Hunger Now, work at food banks, bring peanut butter, contribute to the running of the parish? What is your motive?  If it is because it is what has been asked of you to get to heaven, great.  if it is for socialization, pride in how much we collect, guilt or other reasons – not so good.

This is what the Good News today reminds us of, and what I hope we will all ask ourselves this week, so that we all can take Jesus’ good advice..

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and pastor of St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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