Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Mission

Readings for 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-3,4-5,6-7,16,20
Galatians 6:14-18
Luke 10:1-12,17-20

I would like to begin by wishing you a Happy Fourth of July. I pray that as we celebrate our nation’s independence we will also remember those who have fought for our freedom in the past and those who continue to do so today. Those of you who saw the front page of The Advocate yesterday morning will have noted the fact that while many of us will be enjoying fireworks, barbecue, and time with our friends and family this weekend, for those cleaning up the oil spill there is no holiday – they just keep working. As I reflected on this, I couldn’t help but think of ourselves as Catholics and Christians. We never get a day off from Christianity. It’s not like we’re only Christians at Mass and then we can take the rest of the week off. It’s like being a parent; and every parent can attest to the fact that you’re not just a mom or dad from 9-5, Monday through Friday; it is something that characterizes your whole life. You’re always ‘on the job’ in a certain sense and the same goes with our life as Christians.

The primary vocation of all Christians is to love – to love God and to love others. The way that we live this out is dependent upon what we might call our secondary vocation – either as an ordained person or as a member of the lay community. The Second Vatican Council tells us that the vocation of the laity is to renew the temporal order (AA, 7), which simply means that the Catholic faith must be brought into the public arena so as to perfect our culture and world. Rather than thinking that our personal faith and beliefs ought to be kept separate from our work and public life, we must recognize that our faith is a necessary part of our work and public life - it must be the foundation of all else.

It is the role of bishops, priests, and deacons to assist you in carrying out that mission of bringing the faith into the world. This happens by our preaching and teaching, which we hope gives you nourishment and sustains your faith. It happens by our personal interaction with you, when we can enter into your lives in a deeper and more personal way. Sometimes it happens by organizing groups to do better outreach. But most of all it happens by our administering the sacraments by which we all receive the grace to live out our vocation. Through the sacraments, we are given an abundance of grace to go out into the world and to shine with the light of Christ and bring others to Him. And you surely don’t need me to tell you how much our world is in need of Christ’s presence. You need only look around. We see the constant arguments about immigration, same-sex unions, abortion, healthcare, or the welfare state. And don’t forget the issues not so frequently seen in the news, but which we all know are huge problems in our culture: the breakdown of the family, the pornographic nature of much of our media – even shows intended for the family or even children - and a tendency among many to see religion as opposed to freedom. Now more than ever, our country and our world are in need of a personal experience of God. And the only way that many people will be led to that experience is through us.

The gospel reading for today recounts how Jesus sent the seventy-two disciples out saying, “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” and to “greet no one along the way.” Why does He tell them to greet no one along the way? It seems rather rude to ignore people who call out to you as you pass by. But if we look at the whole passage we see a certain urgency in Jesus’ calling. He told them not to greet anyone on the way because they had a very specific mission to carry out – to go out to get laborers for the harvest - and to be distracted by others along the way was to lost sight of this mission. My brothers and sisters, we must not lose sight of the mission. Like the disciples two thousand years ago, we too are being commissioned to go out and labor in the work of harvesting and finding more laborers. And what else is this work of harvesting than the work of bringing souls to know Jesus Christ?

The question is how do we do this? How do we go about making more disciples? It’s easy: live the faith. Live the Catholic faith in all its beauty and people will be attracted to it. They’ll long for it. I can’t tell you how many converts I have met who were converted because they saw someone living the faith and recognized in them something that they themselves lacked and desired. Surely this was one of the most common ways for Saint Paul to make converts. He preached frequently and travelled often, hoping to bring the gospel message to as many people as possible. But more than his words, which are inspiring, it was the power of his witness that brought people to the faith. He suffered countless trials and afflictions – he was stoned, whipped, imprisoned, and many other things – but in all of this he rejoiced. He rejoiced because he was crucified to the world and the world to him; he was concerned only with following after Jesus Christ. This faithfulness and rejoicing in the face of such trials spoke louder than any words could. And the great blessing is that he lived it for all the world to see.

With Saint Paul and all the saints of ages past as examples of this lived faith, it is now our time to take courage and live the Catholic faith in view of the world. We don’t always have to use words. Rather, we need only be faithful Catholics and Christians, sustained by the grace of the sacraments and fully alive in the Holy Spirit, and our deeds and joy will be speak loud enough for us. If we do this, many souls will be converted to Christ. For, as Saint Francis of Assisi says, “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” Mindful of this, we set our eyes to the mission and move forward, for the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.