Focus on Mission - Part One

(July 7, 2013)

Message: Mission begins with gratitude.

This week I enter my fifth year as pastor of St. Mary of the Valley. It is a good time to ask: Why am I here? What does St. Mary of the Valley mean to me? And - What do I expect from you? Message: Mission begins with gratitude.

This week I enter my fifth year as pastor of St. Mary of the Valley. It is a good time to ask: Why am I here? What does St. Mary of the Valley mean to me? And - What do I expect from you?

I would like to devote three homilies to those questions. I call it "Focus on Mission." Parts one, two and three. The theme of this first homily on mission is "gratitude." Mission begins with gratitude. I am grateful for many things about St. Mary of the Valley. Let me mention a few: We have fine grounds and buildings. Like you, I am grateful for the faith and sacrifice of those who entrusted these facilities to us. When I came in 2009, I inherited a small, but enthusiastic staff - and I have been impressed by the Stewardship of so many parishioners. I have no police force and I cannot levy a tax. Everything you give of your time, your abilities and your financial resources is a free gift. I know that you love me and you love St. Mary of the Valley and I am grateful for that love. I can honestly say, "I love you."

Where does gratitude come from? A few months back we had an Eagle Scout Court of Honor that brought home to me the source of gratitude. At the ceremony the boys expressed their thanks to the adult leaders. The experiences they described involved being taken from relatively comfortable homes to sleep on the ground, get drenched with rain, walk on foot for miles and search for food such as wild berries and trout. The boys - with no offense to their moms - said those were the most wonderful meals they ever had.

We see something similar in today's Gospel. Jesus' disciples lived out in the open. They had no roof over them, no closets, no beds, no stoves, no storehouse of food. They relied on God and the hospitality of others. When Jesus sent them out, he insisted they go without money, extra clothes or food. He wanted them to live the most basic Christian virtue: gratitude.

A grateful person has joy. A man can have everything a be miserable - if he lacks gratitude. On the other hand, a person can face hardship and be joyful if he has a thankful heart.

I saw this when I took a group of young people to Europe for World Youth Day. At the end of our pilgrimage I asked them what they most gained from the experience. Many said it made them realize how much they had and all the things they would be thankful for when they returned. And what they most mentioned: yes, their mom's food!

We need gratitude to understand the Kingdom of god. Pope Benedict said that the Kingdom of God means that God is "the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting." By proclaiming the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells us three things: 1)God exists, 2) God really is God, and 3) "he holds in his hands the threads of the world." (I wish I had one of those projector the Evangelicals use.)

To accept the Kingdom of God requires gratitude. It is not something we create. It is God's work. He exists and he really is God and he holds in his hands the threads of the world.

The Kingdom is our goal. It means to accept God's rule in our lives. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

If we are going to follow Christ, if we are going allow God to rule in our lives, it will involve hardship - and even humiliation. Hardship - doing without certain things - is part of following Jesus. Like the experience of the Scouts, shared hardship can lead to gratitude and joy.

That was certainly the case with the apostles. Jesus sent them with nothing for the journey. Some welcomed them, but others threw stones and rejected them. The disciples didn't fall into self-pity or anger or despair. They simply brushed the dust from their feet. They knew that if some people didn't welcome them, others down the road needed them. I will say more on that next week when I talk about "Focus on the Mission - Part Two."

This Sunday I have spoken about the gratitude involved in getting started. The Kingdom of God is at hand. God exists, he really is God and he is at work. Our job is to receive that Kingdom and invite others. Even though we suffer some hardships and disappointments, we do not abandon the mission.

The harvest is abundant, Jesus tells us. The Kingdom of God is at at hand. We welcome it with thankful hearts. Mission begins with gratitude. Amen.

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Final version

A Homilist's Prayer

Versión Castellana

From Archives (14th Sunday, Year C):

2010: Healing the Family Tree
2007: Stepping Out
2004: The Wealth of Nations
2001: What We Need
1998: Political Involvement and Discipleship

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday: Homilies

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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Parish Picture Album

(June 2013)

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

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KRA's & SMART Goals (updated June 2013)

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