Pastor Column, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 22, 2018

Pastor Column, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 22, 2018

Msgr, Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus

Have you ever felt like an unwanted interruption in another person’s busy day? Have you ever been made to feel that your needs were inconvenient? While you and I may feel that sometimes with our parents, supervisors and perhaps a friend or two, Jesus did not consider those who tracked Him down in an “out of the way place” a bother. They were not an imposition to Him. His secluded place wan not that anymore. This gospel, I believe, speaks loudly to us in terms of our patience, compassion, and our love. That Mark the Evangelist would include this experience in particular also speaks clearly to the patience, compassion and love that Jesus’ disciples are to cultivate in order to follow Him in service to God’s people.

For sure the disciples must have been travel-weary; certainly they needed some time to recuperate and be renewed in Jesus’ presence. They had just returned from their missionary journeys. As this Gospel affirms, however, the needs of those who are like sheep without a shepherd sometimes supersede the needs and desires of the minister. Mark does not obviate the necessity of quit prayer and restorative rest. Prayer was Jesus’ reservoir where He would find the strength to serve, the insights of His preaching, and the courage to persevere. Prayer would also empower the disciples, but as the scriptures today challenge those who serve others to be readily available – in spite of weariness, despite any inconvenience, despite any pre-planned schedule.

Jesus was moved by compassion for the crowds. Rather than irritation, Jesus allowed love to guide His actions. His caring compassion helped Jesus look beyond the crowds who pressed upon Him. Why? Because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The image conjures up the aimlessness and wandering that characterized the Israelites on their first journey through the desert, or during those times when their Kings had failed them. Just as God intervened in those times on their behalf, so Jesus gives Himself to ease the needs of the crowds. Through action and teaching, Jesus helped the sheep that approached Him find direction, meaning, and inspiration for their lives. Let us all pray that our lives be in accord with God’s will and God’s way, that Jesus’ teaching continues to direct and inspire us, 21st century followers of Jesus.

 

Pastor Column, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 15, 2018

Pastor Column, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 15, 2018

Monsignor Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish

Some of us recently completed the yearly “graduation cycle” in May or June. We may have traveled to Universities, sat in football fields to listen to graduation speeches, watched with watery eyes as our high-school graduates were sent forth to experience life as adults, or been moved by the stirring music of Elgar as the grads marched forth into the future with Pomp and Circumstance. One’s continuous learning in life only leads to still more commencement exercises: Marriage, Holy Orders, new assignments, job relocations, the birth of children – all of these are new beginnings. In each new venture we are like the disciples whom Jesus sends forth in today’s Gospel. Their training and preparations were complete, the last-minute instructions given. They were wrapped in hope and a curious mix of confidence and fear. Like last month’s Class of 2018 they, too, marched down a road to an uncertain future. All of us have been formed in the faith, educated (to various degrees) in Scripture and Liturgy, experienced the lessons of life, and felt the Lord’s embrace of faith. Now is our turn to be Christ’s disciples. All we need to do is commence.

To me it is a marvel that the message of Jesus lasted after His death. Gospel perseverance had more to do with the character of those whom Jesus chose than the eventual conversion of the Emperor and/or other persons of political, economic or military influence. It seems from the Gospel choices that Jesus made that He never really wanted to recruit religious professionals. The people Christ challenged to discipleship were, with few exceptions, all men and women who were willing to leave behind the safe and the familiar to set out on mission for the sake of the Good News. He never plumbed the ranks of Jewish clergy affiliated with the Temple, among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Pharisee class. Like some of his contemporaries, Jesus might have established a rabbinical school but chose not. On the contrary, those who put their faith in Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah of Israel formed a sort of “grass roots” endeavor, from which would eventually emerge a specially-dedicated clergy later on, after the Ascension. Jesus’ disciples were a mission community, carrying the Good News to all people in all places. Following the example and the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, they were to travel lightly and live simply so as to be more fully given to the service of others.

So-called “regular people” were vitally important in the early mission of the Church. They were the Church, as few magnificent Christian buildings existed; these would not arrive until another three-to-five hundred years in the future, when the Roman Emperor made Christianity the official religion of the land. Pope St. John Paul II, when commentating on the missionary Vatican II decree Ad Gentes Divinitus, said that faithful lay persons have a unique opportunity and crucial responsibility in today’s Church. “Through your lives, he said, “and in the midst of your daily activities in the world, you show that faith has the power to transform the world and to renew humankind. Even though it remains hidden and unnoticed, like the leaven or the salt of the earth, your role as laity is indispensable for the Church in the fulfillment of its mission from Jesus Christ.”

Our efforts to promote the Gospel must be fueled by passion. Thing change when faith becomes a passion. Amos – the prophet from the Old Testament reading today – was so passionate that even when he was rebuffed, he could not be silent. Jesus’ apostles were fired by the passion of their Lord, and were so driven by that passion, that human comforts were unimportant as they took up their itinerant journey with Jesus.

This set of Sunday readings featuring Amos, Jesus, the Twelve and St. Paul remind us that all of us who have been chosen by Jesus are challenged to renew ourselves, our passions and our purpose. May we experience in our lives some of the fire that drove them!