July 3, 2022
Is 66:10-14c; Ps 66:1-7, 16, 20; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
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The Kingdom of God is at hand for you!!
Wow, this sounds like something brand new! Especially coming from Jesus as spoken to a desperate, oppressed and confused people. We might expect that everything changed at that point. Since Jesus was God and God has the power to change things dramatically anytime He desires, surely EVERYTHING changed. Not exactly. Those who believed in the true identity of Jesus and then followed (imitated) Him were changed enormously.
Later, of course He instituted the Eucharist, named Peter the head of the Church which would prevail against Hell itself until Jesus returned. He sent the Holy Spirit and endowed us with the very gifts of God’s Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Piety, Counsel, Strength and pure AWE at His incomprehensible reality. He did this for our FREEDOM which was ours for the taking if we were His faithful followers.
The Kingdom of God is the final stage of earthly reality. It’s like a different dimension although it’s the true reality we all yearn for and for which we were made (recalling Paul’s Letter to the Galatians from last week). In fact, recall that during the celebration of the Mass we are existing in eternal time and should have a profound sense of already ‘having a foot’ in Heaven. If we cultivate those gifts of the Holy Spirit we can build a more heavenly space while still on earth for the generations to come. That’s God’s promise.
So, it’s all good. History seems to be unfolding in a very Godly and Heavenly way, right? Not exactly. In fact I suspect few people would look around at most parts of the world and say, “Yep, this is the FREEDOM that Jesus intended for us. Yea, us!! That’s not exactly the story of our People in the Bible either. Today’s psalm 66 (10-12) alludes to such a thing:
You tested us, O God, tried us as silver tried by fire.
You led us into a snare; you bound us at the waist as captives.
You let captors set foot on our neck; we went through fire and water;
then you led us out to freedom.
Even in today’s gospel, in the midst of declaring that the kingdom of God is at hand, Jesus warns the disciples that He is sending them out like sheep among wolves…. NOT a pretty visual…..
And then more specific instructions. Rather harsh and rather curious:
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way. (NO TIME TO WASTE?)
Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. (How many people ducked down under their window sills when they saw the disciples coming? They just DON’T LEAVE!)
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.” Hopefully God won’t put us in the same category as the Sodomites. What must they have been up to?
We don’t do that anymore. Rather than just shake the dust from our sandals and move on, we tend to stay and build buildings and try to maintain an established relationship in the neighborhood. There are some implicit priorities that must be invoked to different degrees while trying to do effective ministry. Some people are well poised for Kingdom Building. Nothing else would even be interesting to them…. But there is a whole continuum of Catholics out there. Some are almost always available for whatever needs to be done. Some are here most of the time and contributing in some ways some of the time. And then there are the ones who show up consistently a couple times a year, but they are known by community members and certainly not forgotten by God. We try to focus our resources where they will be best received so we can ultimately serve the most people. We still face the big harvest and too-few- laborers scenario.
Our Church and our Country, are still the bastion of freedom for many of the world’s desperate people. Europe still looks to us for protection almost 80 years after the allied landings on Normandy Beach. Peter’s Pence wants our money, and so does almost everyone else in dire circumstances. But we as a Church and a country seem to be weakening and unraveling…. We seem to have lost any consensus on what is right and wrong beyond our own STRONG opinions and passions.
We are reminded perhaps especially this weekend of the original expectations expressed by a couple of our founding fathers:
“We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, and Revenge or Gallantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” From John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, 11 October 1798, Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-3102.
Our Constitution requires “sufficient virtue among men for self-government,” otherwise, “nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.” James Madison, The Federalist Papers.
Truth and morality seems to be up for grabs. Probably it always has been. Clearly it’s time to reflect more deeply on what biblical and American Freedom really means and what is the true cost? Do we just hold up in a comfortable place and eat and drink all that is offered or do we go about the real work of discipleship, citizenship, kingdom building and nation building?
As with today’s psalm…. Have we been sufficiently tested and tried as silver by fire? Are we still bound at the waist as captives with our captors’ foot on our necks? Are at least some of us going through the water and fire that THEN leads us to FREEDOM?
It’s interesting that in the gospel today Jesus instructs the disciples to declare the Kingdom of God to those who welcome them AND to those who do not welcome them. The consequences for the two groups are profoundly different. Life for one; destruction for the other. The big takeaway is which group are we?
Think of the group of people with whom we spend most of the 177 hours each week that we are not in Sunday Mass. How many developed conversations have we had with them over the past two months about THE KINGDOM OF GOD, THE EUCHARIST, and THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Is any of this real? Does it matter? Who do we really depend on to ensure our FREEDOM and the FREEDOM of the most vulnerable? If it’s not the authority and the wisdom of the Church, then who is it? Specifically? Who can we really trust? Maybe on this weekend as we recall the great efforts and sacrifices of those (terribly imperfect) people who have served the cause of FREEDOM, we could press our loved ones for a new series of good conversations about the source of our Truth and Values and Morality.