15th Sunday B: Go With What You Have

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

We read last Sunday from the Gospel of Mark about the rejection of Jesus in his own hometown of Nazareth. After performing two great miracles, he went home and found himself dismissed and belittled by people he has known all his life, not only townspeople but members of his own family.
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” (Mark)

The rejection didn’t stop him, of course. Leaving Nazareth Jesus turns to the twelve he has chosen previously and sends them out to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God. He gives them a commission; he empowers them. But listening to his words in the gospel ,we might wonder if he’s really giving them all they need.

“He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. “

No food, no begging bag, no money? Not even a change of clothes? Doesn’t seem adequate, does it?

A Haitian priest, Father Joseph, is staying with us for a few months trying to learn English and last Friday he celebrated our community Mass for the first time in English. The gospel, appropriately, was from St. Matthew, where Jesus said to his apostles, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves… do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

We can be a tough audience, of course, but we clapped for him when he finished. No, we couldn’t understand him all the time, but his sincerity, his zeal, the faith of the man stood out. The Spirit was speaking through him.

I think that’s what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. He’s not talking to his apostles alone; he’s talking to us too. Don’t be afraid to embrace your faith, to live it as well as you can and to offer it to others as well as you can. The Spirit uses us. Even if you think your faith is small, don’t be afraid to use it, even if you don’t have all the answers or can’t put it in the words you would like, say it. Jesus gives us his Spirit; we need to depend on the Spirit, not on our own abilities.

These days the pope is visiting three countries in South America: Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. These are countries that are among the poorest in the world. They don’t have much clout; they’re not among the super-powers. I suppose some would say the pope should manage his time better. Instead of going to places like that why not go to Harvard or Princeton and talk to the intelligentsia. Why not go to Hollywood and talk to the celebrities, they’re the people with power. But pope seems to prefer going to the poor.

And what does he say to them? To a congress in Bolivia of representatives of labor and many marginalized groups he said:”The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites,” he said. “It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you. Let us together say from the heart: no family without lodging, no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly person without a venerable old age. Keep up your struggle and, please, take great care of Mother Earth.” Sounds like something Jesus would say.

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