Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time | Introduction Homily to Holy Family
For the last couple of weeks now, the readings at our Sunday liturgies have been inviting us to reflect on the idea of Christian mission. The mission of every follower of Jesus is to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, to evangelize the nations, bringing others to an encounter with the Lord. Today, we are once again being invited to consider that mission. It is not a mission reserved for a few; instead, it is the mission of all the baptized.
If we look back at the tradition of our faith, spreading the Good News and sharing with others what God is doing in the world has always been important – even going back to our Jewish roots. The Lord would use the prophets to speak His Word to the people of Israel and others. The prophets would offer a challenge to the Jews about the way they were living their lives, how they were failing to uphold their end of the covenant with God, and calling them to conversion of heart. But they would also speak words of encouragement, reminding the people of Israel of the promises made to them by God. In our first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we have an example of that.
The Israelites are returning from exile in Babylon only to see that their beloved city of Jerusalem is lying in ruins. Isaiah prophesies that the city will return to its splendor, that it will be rebuilt and become even more prosperous and majestic than before. The Lord will bless the New Jerusalem abundantly. It will be like a mother to the Jewish people. They will be like suckling infants, comforted and nurtured. The city will give them the experience of God’s love and care. The Temple of Jerusalem will represent and house God’s presence in their midst, and “the Lord’s power shall be known to His servants.” But this passage from Isaiah doesn’t just point to the restoration and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It also points to the Church.
For Christians, the Church is our New Jerusalem, that holy place in which we find our home, where we find peace and comfort in the presence of God. The message of Isaiah is giving prophetic witness to how the Church will be more prosperous than anything ever imagined. It will stretch its branches across every nation of the earth, spreading the comfort and peace of God to all the peoples of the world. Because of that, the hearts of God’s people will rejoice. All the earth will cry out with joy; all the earth will worship and sing the praise of God. But that can’t happen unless we go out first and proclaim all that the Lord has done for us. The prosperity spoken of by Isaiah cannot be achieved if we don’t first embrace the mission with which we have been entrusted.
In our Gospel, we find the fulfillment of the prophetic promise made by Isaiah. Jesus commissions 72 of His disciples to go into the nearby towns and villages to preach the Gospel, to share the Good News of God’s love and salvation. How else would the people of those towns have known about Jesus? How else would they have been prepared to hear the message that He was coming to share with them? How else would their hearts have been open to receive His presence among them? They wouldn’t have.
Every one of us who are present for Mass today have been called by God to participate in the great mission of the Church. We have encountered the Lord in our hearts and been changed by Him. Because of that, we now must go out and share with others. Announcing the Good News of the Kingdom is not optional for us – it’s mandatory.
Now, more than ever before, there is a need for Christians to give witness to the Gospel in the midst of the world. Our world is in desperate need of hope; we are in desperate need of transformation; we are in desperate need of life; we are in desperate need of joy; we are in desperate need of peace. Jesus is the only One who can bring those things to the world. But we are the ones that, like the 72 disciples, have to go before Him to prepare the nearby towns and villages for His coming. We must be His hands and feet. We must make Jesus concretely alive to the people in the world through our lives – through our words and actions. We should be the living icons of Jesus in our time.
I think it’s appropriate that these are the readings for this weekend when so many priests in the Church, especially in the United States, are celebrating Masses for the first time at new parishes. In a special way, it’s a reminder to me of my mission and purpose as a priest. Over the next few months, we will all come to know each other a lot better as we journey together in this walk of discipleship. There will be a time for us to share more about our lives with each other. But for this weekend, I want to share one important thing with you.
As your priest, you have this promise from me: I will always speak the Truth. I will challenge each of you to be better disciples of Jesus. I will try my best to accompany you on that journey. There will be times that you do not agree with everything that I preach about. That’s a good thing! That means that there is room to have a discussion on important topics and to learn…with each other…why the Church teaches what she does. When that happens, come talk to me. We’ll have a conversation and grow together.
Y’all, we need each other…that’s why Jesus sent His disciples out in pairs. We need to know that we have a community of brothers and sisters who are supporting us and walking with us through the ups and downs of life, encouraging us in our striving for holiness. That is the only way that any of us can truly be disciples of Jesus; it is the only way we can go out into the world and give witness to Him.
Today, may we continue to ask for the grace to hear the voice of Jesus calling us to be His disciples, may we ask Him for the strength and the courage to respond to His invitation to evangelize. The world needs to hear the message of the Gospel. If we don’t go out and proclaim it, who will? The Lord needs us to be His witnesses. Let’s get started today.