Bottom line: Jesus asks us to step out in faith, remembering our purpose - to participate in the great harvest of souls.
Today we hear about how Jesus sent out his disciples with this mission: to bring in the great harvest of souls. The only instruction he gave them was to take nothing with them and accept whatever hospitality people offered. He was asking them to step out in faith. Mother Angelica once spoke about what stepping out means. Mother Angelica, you will remember, is the Franciscan contemplative nun who founded EWTN - the Eternal Word Television Network. Here is what she said:
"In every instance, God waited on His apostles to step out in faith not knowing what was coming next, and this is where we fail today. We have been brainwashed to believe that we first must have a goal, then we must have a committee, then we must have meetings, and a fund drive, and then we must get some qualified people and budget, and then you can begin to do something for the Lord. By that time, you've forgotten what you started out to do."*
Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against goals and committees and meetings and fund drives and qualified people and budgets. We have them all here at Holy Family. Still, Mother Angelica makes an important point. What matters most is stepping out in faith. That's what Jesus asked his disciples to do. He sent them with nothing for the journey: no money, no backpack, not even any shoes. He wanted them to depend on God - and upon God's people.
As he sent out the disciples, Jesus told them to say, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." It is important for us to ask: What exactly is the Kingdom of God? In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict gives an in-depth analysis of that phrase. He notes that you can find the phrase "Kingdom of God" 122 times in the New Testament - almost always from the lips of Jesus. While you cannot reduce the phrase to a single meaning, the pope makes this statement:
"When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting."
The pope goes on to say how the Kingdom of God is an inadequate translation. "It would be better," the pope said, "to speak of God's being-Lord, of his lordship." In other words, God exists, he is really God - and "he holds in his hands the threads of the world." I love that phrase: He holds the threads of the world in his hands. That is what we profess when we pray, "Thy Kingdom come." Please God, take the threads of my life. Remove the knots and tangles - and weave those threads into something beautiful. What you do for me, do also for my brother and sister.
God wants us to place our lives in his hands. This Sunday Jesus asks us to trust God and to remember our purpose: to help bring in the great harvest of souls. It is so easy to get bogged down and forget why we are here. Our purpose is to come to God and to bring other with us. I have known people who started out great, but then got discouraged when things didn't go the way they expected. They gave up the work of the Kingdom and crawled into a shell.
When you get discouraged, it is good to remember the example of Abraham Lincoln. Once, during the Civil War, President Lincoln went with his secretary John Hay to visit General McClellan. The General was not home and Lincoln decided to wait. When the General returned, he went to bed and sent word to the waiting president that he had retired for the night. It was terrible insult and John Hay was furious. Lincoln took it calmly. He said to his young assistant, "I'd hold McClellan's horse if it would bring us victory."
President Lincoln was an unpretentious and humble man. Some thought him a weak leader, but he was one of the greatest leaders this country has known. What made Lincoln such a great leader was that he didn't let temporary setbacks overcome him. He did that even though he suffered a form of depression that made him vulnerable to criticism. And he got plenty! Still, he kept his goal in view. There's a lesson for us. We have a goal: to share in Jesus victory. Now is the time for the great harvest of souls. We want to be part of that harvest and bring others into it. May nothing keep us from that purpose. The Kingdom of God is at hand.
*From Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality edited by Raymond Arroyo, p. 186.
From Archives (14th Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Seminarian Jose Alvarez, Pictures of Summer Projects)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
My bulletin column
St. Mary of the Valley Album
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