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The gospel sounds like the 2020 election season; the way our
candidates send out advance teams to prepare for their eventual
arrival. Teams of experts go to places and cities a candidate will
soon visit: to arrange meetings with potential donors; to check
security measures; write candidates’ speeches for them; arrange for
photo opportunities and "selfies, etc." Only hand-picked
professionals are sent ahead. They are instructed what to say –
"stay on message." Any mistakes may cost votes.
I take it back: that doesn’t sound like the gospel story, does
it? Well, Jesus is an important person sending representatives ahead
to places he intends to visit; to prepare for his arrival. But,
that’s as far as it goes. Similarity ends there. Jesus is not a
politician running for office. He’s not out to win votes, or
popularity contests. He’s planning speaking engagements, but of a
very different type.
In comparison to our presidential and congressional campaigns,
what Jesus is doing is almost a "non- event." No press releases, no
banquets with local elites, no barriers and parades, no enormous
campaign budgets, no scripted speeches. Nor professionally trained
spokespeople to go to cities and towns loaded with campaign
literature. There won’t be free food and drinks to draw the crowds.
When we travel to new places, whether across town or across the
country, we rely on our cell phones and GPS systems to give us
directions. Our apps tell us about road conditions, rest stops, gas
stations and sites along the way. Of course they didn’t have all
those travel guides in Jesus’ day. But, he does ask a lot of them.
He tells them the towns where he expects to visit and then it is up
to them to get there. He will arrive after they prepare for his
coming. And more! He doesn’t tell them what to say when they get
there. They aren’t trained speakers and they haven’t been given
prepared "speaking points."
Jesus’ disciples have been with him and now they are being sent
to represent him. Is this beginning to sound familiar? Is it coming
home to each of us? Who are they again, these personal, hand-picked
ambassadors for Christ? They are ordinary, everyday folk entrusted
with an important mission. "Go prepare the way for me" – wherever
they go, to each and every place, he will follow…he will show up.
He does provide them with some traveling instructions. "The
harvest is abundant but the laborers are few, so ask the master of
the harvest to send out laborers to his harvest." In other words:
"There is a lot for you to do out there, so pray to God for help."
("Out there" can be as close as our own supper table.)
We have done what Jesus told us to do: we have prayed for
vocations. God has answered those prayers with vocations of all
kinds. We see that each time we come to church. It is not just those
ordained serving at the altar, but all the other ministering at our
liturgical celebrations. Plus, those on the parish staff; as well
as, volunteers who teach our youth, take communion to the sick,
prepare and serve food for the homeless at our parish food pantry.
There are musicians, artists, scripture teachers, etc. Praying for
"laborers for the harvest" is a reminder that God has invested a lot
in this venture, God’s only Son, and will not desert us workers in
I know a woman who says a prayer before she visits her son and
his family. "They don’t go to church," she says. "And I hope I say,
or do something that moves them to return. God has given me courage
and joy that have gotten me through hard times. I want them to have
that same help when they need it...and someday they will."
Jesus goes on to instruct his representatives. They shouldn’t
worry about even the ordinary travel needs. There will be people to
welcome them and take them in. Why? Because those who represents
Jesus bring peace with them. It is a peace people can feel: it will
"rest on them," He says.
Is He telling them not to be polite? "Greet no one on the way."
In the Middle East there is a great emphasis on hospitality. It
wouldn’t just be a "good morning," or "good afternoon." It would
require stopping, greeting, conversing, sharing food, and spending
time. "No time" for that, Jesus is saying. "You have important work
The mother who says a prayer before visiting her son and his
family says, "I didn’t go to college to study religion. All I can do
is say a prayer and look for a chance to share my faith." Which is
exactly what Jesus wanted his disciples and us to do: say a prayer
and tell people, "the Kingdom of God is at hand" – in those, or
That message was so important Jesus says it twice, "the Kingdom
of God is at hand." Now what could that mean? First of all: it’s not
about a faraway, other-worldly place. And it is not a place on the
map, with lines, color and a label that says, "Here is the Kingdom
of God." It’s not a place at all and it is not about the next life
after we die, "We are hoping to go to the Kingdom." – like Dorothy
and her companions trying to get to Oz against all the obstacles. As
someone said: "The Kingdom of God is now, or never." Jesus called
his disciples, "the light of the world." People will know by our
words and actions that God is very close and doing good things: they
will know that the Kingdom of God is now.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
mercy be to all. . ."
As I am writing this column, it is the 75th
anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Aged soldiers are
receiving the thanks for what they and their fallen fellow soldiers
made possible – the beginning of the end of Hitler’s reign. In the
ensuing years after the end of World War II, peace in every corner
of the world has remained elusive. For Christians, peace means,
"being in a right relationship with God and with one another." Often
the concept of peace is tied to the Jewish word, "shalom." Shalom,
however, is much more. As a Hebrew lexicon states, shalom is "a
state of being whole, complete or full" and "desiring completeness
Rabbi David Zaslow writes, "Contrary to popular opinion the
Hebrew word shalom does not mean "peace," at least not in the
English sense of the word. It comes from a Hebrew root-word that
means "wholeness." And what is wholeness? In the Hebraic way of
thinking, wholeness is the joining together of opposites. That’s why
we say "shalom" when we greet friends and when we are wish them
farewell. In the most opposite of situations (coming and going) we
use the same word, "shalom." There is a hidden connection to all our
comings and goings; they are wondrously linked together. When I come
from somewhere, I am going to someplace else. When I realize this, I
feel "wholeness," and that is the source of peace – the knowledge
that all my opposing energies are somehow linked and part of a
single whole. True peace must have wholeness as its foundation."
Why do I mention this? It occurs to me that if we are ever to
have true peace by a shalom definition, we have to realize that our
opposites are connected. People, who we view as different than us,
are connected to us. That which we do not understand is trying to
teach us about that which we do not understand! As Pope Francis so
often states, "Everything is connected!" The sooner we embrace this
concept, the sooner we will achieve the peace proclaimed by Jesus
This wholeness is not only between people but with the natural
world also. We cannot continue to plunder the resources of our earth
and be able to operate out of a place of wholeness. Every Catholic
needs to read Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home--
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others
he sent ahead of him in pairs
every town and place he intended to visit.
The biblical number 72 represents all the nations, all the
peoples of the earth. When Jesus sends out 72, it’s an outreach to
all people and a statement about the universality of God salvific
reach. The kingdom of God, which these missionaries will announce,
is for everyone – all races and nations. No one is left out; no one
So we ask ourselves:
- By our baptism we are all appointed as prophets. To whom is
Jesus sending me?
- What am I to say to them?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Timmy Grooms #0158506 (On death row since 4/24/98)
- Tilmon Golphin #0590940 (5/13/98)
- Johnny Hyde #0542024 (7/23/98)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
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