Homily 14th Sunday C – 2022 (Fr Jeremiah Browne National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies)
In preparation for the recent beatification of Blessed Pauline Jaricot, the founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a group known as the ‘Friends of Pauline Jaricot’ commissioned an iconographer by the name of Laurence Pierson-Bonenberger to write a new icon in honour of the occasion. The centre panel of the Icon has a stylised image of Pauline, while two side panels depicts various scenes from her life. Pauline is shown wearing a shawl or a scarf inscribed with the words ‘Je suis faite pour aimer et server. Mon Cloitre c’est le monde.’ (I was made to love and serve. My cloister is the world,”), a favourite saying of hers. I was reminded of Pauline’s passion for, and commitment to, the Mission of Christ and the Church as I prepared my homily for this weekend.
Every weekend, we gather here to listen to the Word of God, to reflect on our relationship with Christ our saviour, and to be nourished and strengthened by the eucharist that we share. At the end of Mass, the priest says something along the lines of, “Go forth to live the Gospel” or “Go forth to love and serve the Lord.” The purpose of our gathering is simply to draw closer to the Lord, to experience his love anew and to be empowered and strengthened by Him, who then ‘missions’ us to be Christ in the world. That’s where we get the word “Mass”, from the Latin word “missa” which means to be sent.
Pope Francis in his message to the church for World Mission Sunday 2022 reminds us “that the mission of every disciple is linked to the mission of Christ himself.” He goes on “Christ was the first to be sent, as a “missionary” of the Father (cf. John 20:21), and as such, he is the Father’s “faithful witness” (cf. Rev 1:5). In a similar way, every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ.” That’s who we are! By virtue of our baptism we are sharers of Christ’s mission in the world.
In today’s gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) we hear the story of Jesus sending out the 72. This follows an earlier ‘sending story’, in Luke chapter 9, where Jesus sends out the 12. The 12 represents the mission to the people of Israel – whereas the sending of the 72 represents the mission to all the nations of the earth. At the time, according to the book of Genesis it was believed that the world was made up of 72 nations, and thus the mission is to the whole world. For the evangelist Luke, the message is clear, the good news is to be preached and lived among all the peoples of the world.
When Jesus sends his disciples into the world, there is a certain urgency about the task at hand, and an understanding that the mission is meant to reflect Jesus’ own mission in the world. It is a mission that calls for a new way of living – a new way of being in the world. Notice the early part of the instruction that Jesus gives to the disciples when he sends them out: “Go on your way: take nothing with you, behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” In other words, the context of the mission is a broken hostile world, where people have lost sight of what it means to be truly human, where greed and the quest for power have caused people to exploit the weak, and where privilege and status are seen as blessings from God. It is in this context that Jesus demands a complete break with the status quo and so instructs the disciples to “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals”. This is another way of saying leave everything they have known behind – their old way of life, their sustenance, their income, their security, and embrace a way of living that is more reflective of God’s plan for the world.
This is reflected in the content of the message! Jesus instructs the disciples “Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ And a little later he says, ‘eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ This is a message of relationship, it is a message of care, it is a message of healing, it is a message that respects those we meet, regardless of their status in society.
It is a counter cultural message that asks us to be people who foster relationships, people who build community, people who are willing to sit down together and share a meal with one another, people who see each other as worthy of respect and care.
When Jesus instructs the disciples to ‘Bring nothing with you.” He knows that you can’t be a bearer of peace if you bring your prejudices with you, you can’t share mercy if your come with your judgments too, you can’t share God’s love, if you have made up your mind about the ‘unworthiness’ of the person you are encountering.
Jesus sent out the 72 ahead of him, which implies that Jesus didn’t expect the disciples to act alone. He continues to be the one who makes our salvation possible. The role of the disciple is simply to prepare the way, to model a different way of living that elicits in those we meet a desire to encounter the one who sent us. This is essential what it means to evangelise.
Love is at the heart of the Mission of Christ, it is where he comes from, and it is who he calls us to be. It is not our task to save the world, that is the mission of Christ. The mission we have received, like Pauline Jaricot, is simply to love and serve.
So today, as we listen to God’s word, what might the Holy Spirit be asking of you? To look again at how serious you take your baptismal promise? To look for new ways to foster relationships? To reflect again on God’s love for you, and the privilege it is to be part of God’s plan for the world?
Please consider praying a decade of the rosary on a daily basis for the evangelising Mission of the Church and the Pope’s intentions.
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