Homily: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
To be a Christian, to be authentic followers of Christ consists in two dimensions, like two sides of a coin: to be with Jesus and to be sent by Jesus. These two are interdependent: one cannot do without the other. In the Gospel today, the sending forth of the 72 disciples two by two to every town and place where Jesus Himself was to go took place after the disciples already had spent sufficient time with Jesus, listening to Him, observing His actions and gestures and learning to think, speak and act like Him – in short, to be like Jesus, who is “meek and humble of heart”.
In other words, if we want to be true Christians and authentic Catholics, it is indispensable that we establish an intimate relationship with Jesus first. What could be a picture of that intimate relationship that I am referring to? We shall borrow the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading. Describing the relationship that God has with His people, Israel, the Prophet said: “As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish. For it shall be known that Yahweh’s hand is with his servant, but his fury is upon his enemy”.
This description of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel is more than just a promise to those who wish to have an intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer and the sacraments. Whenever we decide to be serious with our spiritual life, God’s promise to be comforted like a son comforted by his mother becomes a reality. Indeed, to be with Jesus is a true source of joy. You will have that sensation of being secure, that experience of being loved and being accepted despite who or what you are, that feeling of assurance that despite whatever will happen in life, Jesus is still the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. I think this is the reward of being with Jesus, of having an intimate bond with Him.
But this joy of being with Jesus is not incompatible with the presence of little crosses or trials each day. This is the reason why St. Paul, in the Second Reading, says: “For me, I do not wish to take pride in anything except in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord. Through Him the world has been crucified to me and I to the world”. Your daily discomfort – the warm weather, that inconsiderate officemate of yours, the misunderstanding that you have with your housemates, the misinterpretation of people about your good intention (“Don’t say, ‘that person disturbs me’. Say, ‘That person sanctifies me’), that economic burden that you carry now, the physical suffering because of long-time illness, etc. – are little crosses that make us authentic followers of Jesus. That is why we need to embrace these crosses with a smile on our face. St. Josemaría Escrivá said: “If you accept difficulties with a faint heart you lose your joy and your peace, and you run the risk of not deriving spiritual benefits from the trial”. It may sound fantastic and unbelievable. But through our joyful acceptance of our daily trials, we become true disciples of Christ. We may grow strong in our relationship with God.
Do you want to know some signs or indications that our Christian life is doing well? Your life of prayer: How many times you pray every day? Do you maintain always the presence of God daily? Do you visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? Are you faithful in your daily Holy Rosary and other Marian devotions? Your personal battle against your defects and disordered inclinations: Do you fight to resist your bad inclinations? Do you control your anger or irritation? Do you dominate your tongue by saying only words that build and never words that destroy other persons? Your relationship with people around you: Are you considerate with other’s mistakes? Do you criticize their defects or blame them for their errors? Do you fight to protect the name of other people, especially when you hear that others are defaming them? If you think you are living – more or less – these three indicators of true Christian life, then, truly you are intimate with Jesus. Your intimacy with Jesus makes you apt and ready to be sent to do a mission, to do apostolate with other people by bringing them closer to Jesus.
If you notice, whenever we find something very enjoyable, our natural tendency is to share them with our friends, colleagues and family. If there’s something good and joyful that happens to you, the first one to know is your best friend. The same is true with our Christian life. Our apostolate, that is, our mission of bringing people to Christ, is actually an offshoot of our personal prayer life. We cannot give what we don’t have. We cannot share with others our experience of God if we have not authentically experienced Jesus in our daily tasks.
We call this “the apostolate of friendship”. Through working diligently if you are a professional or an employee, through studying well, intensely but calmly, if you are a student, or through fulfilling carefully your household chores, if you are a house mother and wife, you are also like the 72 disciples of Jesus. You are also sent on a mission: to bring people to Christ. You are also sent to every circumstance of life to precede Jesus. How we wish that whenever people will see how hardworking and kindhearted you are, they would say: “This person reads the life of Jesus. He or she is really a true follower of our Lord”. Through your cheerfulness and kindness, you will draw your friends to God.
But you cannot show cheerfulness and kindness if you lack peace of mind and heart. That is why, Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person”. God’s blessings come to us only when our hearts are ready for His gifts. If not, God will bid His time. And you will say, “God did not answer my prayer”. The truth is that you are not yet ready to receive God’s gifts. Who knows whether or not we are ready? God, who searches the heart of the sons of Adam and Eve.
Three things are basic if we want to do “apostolate of friendship”: better understanding of our Catholic doctrines (doctrinal formation), firm trust in God’s providence, and lots of sense of humor (cheerfulness). Jesus told His disciples: “Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves… When they welcome you in any town… say to them; ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand’”. We cannot preach or share our faith if we don’t study them and know them by heart. Besides, only when we are well-equipped with sound doctrines can we behave like meek lambs among the aggressive wolves that would like to sow confusion. “Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know”, Jesus continued speaking. Jesus wants us to trust solely in Him, not in our wealth, not even in our personal attachments to people, places and events. Each of our three Readings suggests the importance of rejoicing and being cheerful. Joy is the typical characteristic of Christians: “Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her”, says the Prophet Isaiah. “I take joy in the cross of Christ Jesus”, says St. Paul. “The 72 disciples returned full of joy”. I am sure that with doctrinal formation, filial trust and sense of humor, we can bring people to God.
My dear friends, “the harvest is rich, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest”. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us live these two dimensions of to be with Jesus and to be sent by Him. Amen.