15th Sunday Ordinary Time B July 16, 2006

Homily — 15th Sun. OT B July 16, 2006

The sending of the Twelve, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1282-1339

Jesus . . . . began to send them out two by two.

Today’s Gospel passage seems to have taken place at about the mid-point of Jesus’ public ministry, based on where the incident occurs in the three Gospels its found in. If that’s the case, then most of the Twelve Apostles would have been following Jesus — living right beside Him — for almost a year and a half up to this point. The kingdom of Heaven is (now) in your midst Jesus told them, and boy was it.

The Apostles were taught by the Master himself. Their hearts were opened wide by the words which fell from His lips. They saw for 18 straight months demons flee from the possessed, the blind have their sight restored, the deaf hear, lepers cleansed. They saw prostitutes and tax collectors convert and live lives of virtue and holiness. They even saw Jesus command the winds and the waves, and raise a young girl from the dead.

Surely being in the constant presence of Jesus was comforting to them, surely they soaked in joyfully every minute spent in Jesus’ presence. But today, Jesus summons the Twelve and begins to send them out, away from His physical presence — out of the kingdom of God and into the kingdom of the world they had lived in before they met Jesus.

Jesus sends them out there to gather more people into His Kingdom. And as St. Mark says in the Gospel, it was the beginning of a “sending out” that continues to this day for each and every disciple of Christ.

For you and I are like those Apostles. Our “home base,” so to speak, is close to Jesus. We all hopefully live and move and breath the Catholic faith we profess: we go to Mass each week, we have religious images hanging up in our homes, we have a daily prayer life and a devotion to Mary and the saints. And as it was to the Apostles, this relationship to Jesus and His Church is to us is a very comforting thing, especially in tough times but also in the good memories we have of Weddings and Christmases and Easters past and present.

But while its comforting to feel Jesus’ presence in the living out of our faith, Jesus at the same time summons us and sends us out, out into the world that has yet to know Christ. And we like the apostles need to respond by going out of that comfort zone and engage the world with the Catholic faith.

You know, every now and then one hears a Catholic say “my religion is between me and God, it has no bearing on my job or my public life in the world.” But Jesus never intended to found a religion that was to be kept private. He calls us to bring His message out of the confines of the Church and into alien, even enemy territory.

So Jesus’ instructions to the Apostles as He sent them out are also important for our own sending out.
First of all, as the Apostles weren’t sent out alone into the world, but with a partner, so we also shouldn’t be going it alone, but should try to get good Catholic friends we can share our faith life with. But let’s remember also that since Jesus paired them up, one Apostle was given Judas for a partner. So we can’t let it shake our faith when people we leaned on go astray.

And when Jesus sends us out into the world, He tells us to leave any earthly riches we have back at home. No food, no sack, no money — we the Church offer the world not earthly riches but heavenly riches first and foremost. As St. Paul says in the second reading, God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the Heavens. The blessing of knowing Jesus, of knowing the Commandments that will bring joy and happiness, of knowing He paid the debt for our sins and that Heaven awaits those who follow Christ. By the way we live our faith out there in the world, at work or at school or in our neighborhood, many people around us will come closer to really knowing Christ.

However, Jesus tells us not to be surprised when after witnessing to our Catholic faith at work or at school or where we live, we are at times not welcomed or listened to. If people reject us or ridicule us, we need to not let this get to us, we need to shake that dust from our feet and continue on preaching and living Christ’s message of repentance.

All this is just what the Apostles did that first time they left the comfort of Christ’s presence and brought the message into the world beyond. And in doing so, the Gospel concludes they drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick, and cured them.

If we heed Christ’s summons, we also will drive many evils out of our society, and anoint with the oil of the Holy Spirit many who are spiritually sick and cure them. And these people will come to know Christ, and find comfort as we do in the Faith; and they in turn we also be summoned and called by Jesus, to go out and together preach repentance to all who are in need of salvation.

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