14th Sunday in Ordinary Time; 7-3-16
Is 66:10-14 Ps 66 Gal 6:14-18 Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison
Brothers, quick question: how many of you are missionary disciples? Hmmm, another question: how many of you are baptized. O.K., if you’re baptized, you’re meant to be a missionary disciple. Why?
By virtue of your baptism, you have been initiated into the Body of Christ and the People of God. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, whoever receives Baptism, is incorporated into Christ; you are an ingredient of the loving organism of the Church, the Body of Christ. And, in so doing, you become a member of the People of God—we’re all in this together.
And, together we are People on a journey.
And, what’s the journey about? To be missionary disciples! As we look at today’s Gospel, Jesus is not a Lone Ranger—he is not a lone missionary. To be sure, Jesus was anointed for a Mission, which was to bring salvation to the world and proclaim the Good News. Though Jesus is no longer with us physically, he is really present within his Church and sacramentally, especially the Eucharist. So, it is not as though the Church has a Mission, but the Mission of Christ has a Church. And, who is the Church? YOU!—you are a member of the Body of Christ and you share in Jesus’ mission. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
So, Jesus gathers around himself 12 Apostles. And, in addition he calls another 72, and sends them to the villages, two by two, to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus never intended to act alone. He came to bring the Love of God into the world and he wants to spread this way of living of communion and fellowship in the style of brotherhood. But, he needs help! That’s why he formed a community of disciples, which is a missionary community to proclaim and live the Good News.
But, we need to be on task. The purpose of being a Christian is not to socialize, it’s not to create a religious security blanket to protect us from the world. No, we have been anointed Priest, Prophet, and King to proclaim the Good News, and this is urgent today. There are so many men in this yard who have given into darkness, cynicism, frustration, resentment, anger, and despair. Just last Sunday as our worship came to a close, there was a knifing on the yard. Yes, the darkness can be daunting. But, there is no time to get lost in prison drama, on mind-numbing gossip, of venting our own pain. We don’t have to wait for a consensus—“Gee, do you think it’s time now?” What is necessary is to do Jesus’ Mission in our time and place. Brothers, bring the Life of Christ, share the fellowship you experience her in this faith community with others. To all people in New Folsom bring the peace of Christ and if they don’t welcome you, don’t take it personally. Jesus was often rejected, but he kept on going and you’re challenged to go ahead and do the same. To those who are morally destitute and spiritually impoverished, you can bring healing, because God wants to heal men of every evil. And, the Lord is not going to wave a magic wand to get this done; rather, He is going to work in and through the members of his Body, the People of God to continue his Mission.
Brothers, I’ve seen miracles happen within this faith community. I’ve seen many of you sow life, spiritual health, and comfort within the outskirts of our society, which is prison. How do you do that? You don’t! But, the Risen Christ does it in and through you! How amazingly beautiful is this: Jesus pours his love into your heart and soul and you, in turn, share it with others. That’s why many of you are so animated, so full of life, so joyful. God is working through you, which makes you glad.
That’s the fruit of being a missionary disciple. We hear the joy of consolation proclaimed through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading. He is addressing a people who have lost EVERYTHING: they are in Exile and they’ve lost their nation, their Kingdom and King, and the Temple, the epicenter of right praise and worship was destroyed. During this time of difficult trial, they experienced something remarkable: sadness and fear gave way to joy: “Rejoice…be glad…rejoice with her in joy,” says the prophet (Is 66:10). This is a great invitation to joy. Why? What’s the reason for their joy when they’ve lost so much? Because the Lord is going to pour out over his Holy City and its inhabitants, a cascade of consolation, an overflow of consolation. Isaiah compares this overflow to motherly tenderness: “You shall be carried upon her hip and dandled upon her knees” (v. 12). Just as a mother takes her child upon her knee and caresses him, so the Lord does with us. This is the cascade of tenderness, which gives us so much consolation. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (v. 13).
Brothers, do you think that the men who did the knifing last Sunday experienced this message that they would live differently? Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr once said, “If you don’t transform your pain, you will transmit it.” That’s what happened last week. Pain was being transmitted. Hurt people hurt people. For this reason, baptized Christians are called to be bearers of this message of hope that not only gives us the promise of Eternal Life, but gives serenity and joy here and now! God’s consolation, his tenderness is right here for the receiving. But, we first must experience the joy of being consoled by Jesus, of being unconditionally and intimately loved by him; then we can bring that joy to others.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit, once said that “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” This is the key if our Mission is going to be fruitful: to feel God’s consolation and to pass it on to others! Brothers, do not be afraid to be a witness that Jesus is Risen! Do not be afraid because he is the Lord of consolation, he is the Lord of tenderness. And, Jesus walks with you! Jesus is within you! Jesus is among us! So, Isaiah’s invitation must energize us to act: “Comfort, comfort my people” (Is 40:1). And, this is what a missionary disciple does. We must share a genuine “I-and-Thou” relationship with Jesus, who consoles us and then we go to console others. This is the Mission of the Church. Yes, people need to hear these words, but most of all they need to see you bearing witness, of “walking the talk.” They need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord Jesus, which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards what is Good. What a joy to bring God’s consolation to others. Amen.