Sunday Sermon for July 3, 2016, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Is 66:10c-14; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
In the Gospel reading today we hear about the seventy-two men the Lord had sent out ahead of Him. He had given them authority to heal people and to expel demons. That sounds great, but when one actually sees it happen it is a surprise. There are two elements to that surprise, first is our Lack of faith believing that it would not happen. After all, if we believed it would happen, why would we be surprised? The second is the joy that this is really happening.
We hear both of these responses in the reports given to our Lord upon the return of the seventy-two. They are clearly excited about the fact that the demons are subject to them, but the very act of reporting this tells you they did not think it would actually occur.
When our Lord hears of the episodes that took place in the towns where these men were preaching and healing, He pulled the rug out from under them and told them not to be rejoicing in the fact that the demons are subject to them in His Name, but that their names are written in Heaven. Nothing has changed.
One can marvel, for instance, at the power of a priest who can change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus and who can forgive sins, but what good is that if the priest loses his soul? He will be the laughing stock of Hell for eternity because his job was to cooperate with Jesus in saving souls, but instead, he served himself and ended up in the infernal abyss.
Too often priests recognize the dignity they possess and the authority that comes with it, but they violate that dignity and misuse their authority. Rather than serving God and His people, too many priests expect to be served.
While I can say much about priests, we have to realize the dignity of married life, consecrated life and single life. God has given each of us many gifts and great dignity. Have we violated this dignity of ours? Have we misused God’s gifts? All of us are sinners which means all of us are proud and selfish. If we are going to be able to live according to our dignity and carry out the will of God it is going to require that the pride and selfishness be taken away.
Unfortunately for us, this is not something we can do on our own; it has to be done to us. If we tried to overcome our pride we would be so proud of our attempts that it would be worse than the pride we already have. The same is true for our selfishness. This means a lot of misfortune, many difficulties, rejections, problems, and so on have to come our way in order to rejoice in God rather than in the gifts of God.
We all know the story of the sufferings of St. Paul, but in today’s reading he tells us that through the cross of Christ, he has been crucified to the world and the world to him. He had finally reached the point where he had no more pride or selfishness. He was about doing God’s will only and that is where peace and fulfillment are found.
As painful as it is for this process to take place, the saints all tell us that it is worth everything one has to endure. The first reading today is about the return of the Israelites to Jerusalem after the exile. They, too, had to be purified because of their infidelity to God. How painful it had to have been to be exiled and be made into slaves. Like Joseph in Egypt, this prepared them for what God wanted of them.
Please note that is was not just the priests or the royalty who were purified this way; it was everybody. Isaiah speaks to the people, who felt hopeless at that point, about the glory that would be theirs when they returned to Jerusalem. Our home is the Heavenly Jerusalem from which we are exiled and for which we are being prepared if we are willing to cooperate.
Jesus is the only way to Heaven and He has walked the path that will lead us there. It is the path to Calvary. He told us we had to take up our cross and follow Him. That becomes the question for us. Are we willing to follow Him? Are we willing to take up our cross? The deeper question is: is our focus on Heaven or is it on ourselves? The cross is the only way to get the focus off of ourselves and put it on to Jesus. Try to cooperate with God: take up your cross and follow the Lord.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.