Bottom line: A fresh start, liberation and healing - great gifts, indeed. To receive such blessings, we must lift our heads and recognize the Source of all.
The Russian people have a fable about a foolish boar. (By boar I am not referring to the guy who puts you to sleep -like I sometimes do - but the animal: a wild pig.) This particular boar was very greedy for acorns. If he found one, he would keep digging, looking for more. He dug so deep that he began tearing the roots of the oak tree. Finally the tree spoke, "Look up, you foolish animal. I am the source of your food. If you destroy my roots, you will have no more acorns."
Today Jesus asks us to look up and see the Source of all. He does this in a counter-intuitive way: not by loading the Twelve with gifts of food and clothes, but by sending them with "nothing for the journey." No food, no back pack, no credit card, no money in their belts. They did, however, bring three wonderful gifts: the chance for a new beginning by repentance, liberation from demons by apostolic authority and healing of sick by anointing with oil.* A fresh start, release from demons and physical healing - these gifts Jesus offers, but only if we turn to the Source.
This Sunday we have a magnificent opportunity to lift our heads and recognize the Source of all. Today we dedicate our new bell and tower. One of the the local pastors sent me a "Meditation on the Blessing of a Bell" by Thomas Merton. Merton had turned from a worldly life to become first a Catholic, then a Trappist monk. He saw the bell as a powerful reminder of God. Here is what he says:
"Bells are meant to remind us that God alone is good, that we belong to Him, that we are not living for this world. They break in upon our cares in order to remind us that all things pass away."
I remember once I was feeling very anxious. My worries made me want to run away. At that moment a church bell rang. I stopped and thought about God. The bell helped me re-focus.
Merton says that bells "speak to us of our freedom." Freedom is much more than doing whatever one wants. Freedom means the ability to realize one's purpose. Each of us has a hidden purpose that God knows. A bell breaks into our anxieties and invites us to pray.
If you visit a Moslem city you will hear a call to prayer at certain moments during the day. Similarly our parish bell will ring a couple of times each day. I hope that it will make us pause and think about the Source.
In the beginning of the homily I told you about the boar who was so greedy for acorns that he didn't recognize the oak tree. I'd like to ask you to imagine this: Suppose that entire universe were reduced to the size of an acorn that you could hold in your hand. Ask yourself: From what Oak Tree did this acorn fall?
Jesus sent his disciples with nothing for the journey. He did it for a reason: So that we would look up and recognize the Source of all.
To sum up: Even though the apostles took nothing for the journey, they did bring some beautiful gifts: a new beginning by repentance, liberation from demons by apostolic authority and healing from illness by anointing with oil. A fresh start, release from demons and healing - great gifts, indeed. To receive such blessings, we must lift our heads and recognize the Source of all. Amen.
*On top of these gifts, Jesus promises a hundred-fold blessing, but that is a topic for a different homily.
From Archives (Homilies for 15th Sunday, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Update (Eagle Scout Project - Bell Tower)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
Parish Picture Album
Cuzco, Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley with link to Mary Bloom Center video
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
(new, professional website)
National Petition to Stop HHS Mandate - important updates