Pastoral Sharings: "Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for July 12, 2015

The Gospel today tells us how Jesus sent the Apostles out 
in pairs to the surrounding villages to preach the Gospel. 
The Apostles were at an important stage in their 
apprenticeship; they had heard the teaching of Jesus and 
they had seen him perform miracles and cast out demons and now it was time for them to put all this into practice.

You could call it work experience. It sounds as though they did well at it too; they did bring the Gospel to others and it seems as though they did cast out demons and cure some people. So they get top marks for their short probation.

The text today is sandwiched between the account of Jesus preaching in the Synagogue of Nazareth which we heard last week and then a report of how Herod was perturbed when he heard about the ministry of Jesus, at first thinking he was John the Baptist now risen from the dead. This gives Mark the opportunity to tell his readers just how John had been executed by Herod.

So all we know about the sending out of the Apostles in Mark’s Gospel is contained in this short paragraph. It is worth looking at it though because there are a couple of interesting details. Jesus tells them, ‘to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses’.

This means they go out vulnerable; they don’t have the ordinary things a traveller would need. It means they are dependent on the people to whom they are sent and must rely on their generosity. Jesus understands quite well that by putting his Apostles at what seems at first to be a disadvantage it actually becomes the secret of their success.

If the Apostles had turned up at a village with a lot of gear, with money and whatever else they would ordinarily need for a journey they would be quite independent. They could pay for their digs and their food and would be free as to where they could go and to whom they would preach.

But without any of these things the Apostles are not free; they are utterly dependent on their hosts for accommodation, for food, for washing and for everything else. This means that they become very close to their hosts; it means that they have to be sympathetic to the situation of those they are living with; it means that they have to experience the lives and problems of the particular family.

This puts them in quite a different category from all the other wandering preachers who tended to be a fierce and very independent lot. The Apostles are in a position of dependency and this becomes the secret of their success. It means their message is more likely to be accepted and it means that they understand the sicknesses and troubles in the family of their hosts.

Jesus goes on to say, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’

This is good advice. The longer they stay with one family the better; if that happens to be a poor family then it would not make a good impression if they then moved on to the house of someone who happened to be richer. No, it is much better if they stay in the one place sharing the lot of those who first extend hospitality to them.

Of course, if no one welcomes them then that is a sure sign it is better for them to move on to another village more open to their message.

The instructions Jesus gives them are good and by doing what Jesus tells them they meet with success and this affirms the Apostles and helps to prepare them for the time when they eventually have to do this work by themselves.

Things are a bit different today. We have established Churches and special houses for the priests to live in and the people support their ministry by their weekly offerings. But even today it is important that those who are engaged in ministry do not live a wildly different lifestyle from the people to whom they are ministering. 

A year or so ago Pope Francis in his typically straightforward way told all the priests that they should have the smell of the sheep about them. After all, he said, no one would think a shepherd was very effective unless he smelled of his sheep.

We regard a life of simplicity as the hallmark of someone who is effective in spreading the Gospel. I think any of us would find it difficult to speak about our problems with someone who we felt was far above us socially or materially. It would also be harder to believe someone who was speaking about the Gospel if they did not share our everyday concerns.

Some Religious Orders focus on the rich and the powerful because they believe that it is through them that they can have the most influence on society at large. This may be a good thing. But it is not the way of our Order, the Salvatorians.

Our Founder specifically wanted us to work with the ordinary people of this world. He believed that it is in focusing on the vast majority of working people that we can achieve the most. I have to say that I feel happier as a member of such an Order rather than one that works mostly with the elite.

The main aim of the Salvatorians is to spread the Gospel as widely as possible and Father Jordan, our Founder, told us to proclaim the Word of God in a very simple and straightforward way so that every single person can understand it.

I think that this particular Gospel passage has great relevance for anyone who aims to bring the Good News to others. Of course, we know that is a task not confined to the clergy or to religious sisters and brothers. It is the job of every single member of the Church.

The message of hope from today’s Gospel is that we don’t have to communicate the Gospel in highfaluting or overly technical language. We will be far more effective if we just use ordinary words and simple concepts. We don’t have to have spent years of study before we can explain what Christ means; we can do it quite easily using concepts we already understand.

The crucial point in the text is that by doing things Jesus’ way the Apostles get close to the people, they understand their concerns and they share their life. There is no better way of communicating the love of God to the people around us than this.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
July 12, 2015

Fifteenth Sunday: Amos and Us–Everyday People

Called to Prophesy

Today’s first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Amos.  Amos was quite different than most of the prophets we come upon in Hebrew Scriptures.  He did not wear strange clothes like Ezekiel and Jeremiah.  He was not a prophet throughout his life like Isaiah or Samuel.  He did not even do strange prophetic actions like Elijah, Hosea and most the prophets.   

Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees.  These were every day type jobs for an every  day sort of a guy.  He lived just south of the border between the Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom, the kingdom of Israel.  One day he received the message from God that he was to drop everything, cross the border into the Northern Kingdom, go to the holy city of the North, Bethel, and tell the people that they were facing destruction unless they changed their lives.

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 6: 7–13
Gospel Summary

Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out two by two. He gives them power over unclean spirits, and instructs them to take nothing for their journey but a walking stick. He warns them about rejection: people will not always welcome them or listen to them. The disciples go out and preach repentance, drive out many demons, anoint the sick with oil and cure them.

Note that the English word “repentance” does not adequately convey the meaning of the Greek verb that Mark uses in his gospel (literally “to change the mind”). In Mark’s usage the word implies a prophetic call to interpret reality in a radically new way, as from blindness to sight. “Repentance” is at once a gift and the task of turning and surrendering to God in a way that embraces every aspect of life. A New Testament example of the reality to which the word points is the conversion experience of Paul. For Paul, that radical change of direction means to live with the mind and heart of Christ (1 Corinthians 2: 6–16).

Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year B—July 12, 2015

In our Gospel today, Jesus summons, sends, and shapes the Twelve for mission. How?

Gospel (Read Mk 6:7-13)

St. Mark describes the first preaching mission Jesus gave to the Twelve, and it is full of instruction helpful to us. First, He summoned them—a call to action that organized and directed them. The initiative here is all His. After He summoned them, He sent them out two by two. Why couldn’t they go out alone? “It is not good for man to be alone.” Human companionship and mutual support would be most important on a mission like this. Jesus did not undertake His own mission alone, either. Then, “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick.” Why this radical simplicity? Surely it was training for the apostles to practice the single-minded dedication their vocation would require of them. They were to begin learning to take seriously the teaching of Jesus: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…But seek first [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:31, 33). As God had sent Jesus into our world in simplicity to save us, Jesus likewise sent His apostles.

‘Evangelize Not With Grand Words … but With the Joy of the Gospel,’ Pope Says

QUITO, Ecuador – In his second homily while visiting Ecuador, Pope Francis spoke on Tuesday of the importance of fostering unity through evangelization, which he said is not done by preaching at people, but by being a joyful witness to the Gospel we have received.

“We evangelize not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with the joy of the Gospel, which fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” the Pope said July 7.

Cross Bearers Needed

In March of this year my father sent out an email to his family marking an important date in his life. It was the anniversary of the day, at thirty years old, he woke up paralyzed. Forty-eight years had passed. I was only eight years old, and the oldest of five children. I cannot remember my father standing upright and living a normal, pain-free life. From that fateful morning, life for him and my mom has been arduous.

My siblings and I learned at a very young age to walk softly, step up and help out, and to pray hard for miracles. I have memories of us all kneeling around my parent’s bed reciting the rosary and intently watching his legs to see if God would make a miracle. I can remember him holding the rosary as tears rolled down his cheeks, embracing the only hope that kept him going.

God is Asking Something Heroic of Us

“The disciple of Christ consents to ‘live in the truth,’ that is, in the simplicity of a life in conformity with the Lord’s example, abiding in his truth. ‘If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth.” (CCC, 2470)

I first interacted with Father Roger Landry in early 2010 when Deacon Mike Bickerstaff and I were seeking Catholic writers for our new Integrated Catholic Life website. I came across an online article online written by Fr. Landry that impressed me. This Catholic priest wrote with great clarity about the truth of our Catholic faith, and I became an immediate fan of his writing.

Don’t Forget That Jesus Is True Man

Can God be painted?

This question tore apart the Eastern Christian world in the eighth and ninth centuries. One element of these iconoclast controversies (apart from whether the use of icons in Christianity violated the Old Testament prohibition of the making and use of graven images) was the question of whether Christ could truly be depicted in an image. After all, any true image of Christ must show both his humanity and his divinity; but how do you show the infinite? How do you describe the indescribable? Some even went so far as to say that Christ himself, being God, could not have possessed any finite characteristics, so that he must have had all possible colors of hair, all possible shapes of nose, all possible sizes of shoes. The absurdity of this should be self-evident.

In Times of Trouble, Look to the Lord!

There was a moment in Peter’s life when he faced the choice of whether to focus on the storm or on the Lord. It is in the memorable gospel story in which Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus. As the Gospel recounts,

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink (Mt 14:30).

It is so difficult for us. We seem wired for the negative, wired to be anxious, doubtful, and on the alert for any danger. It takes great faith to keep our sights focused on the Lord, who alone can and will save us if we trust in Him. But too easily the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to steal our serenity and snatch from us our ability to see God. And losing that ability, whether through neglect or weakness, we are overwhelmed by the fears of the world. So often our loss of the sight of God has us frantically running about wondering what to do. Scripture says…..

Praying with the boss at work

Saying prayers with colleagues would feel a bit uncomfortable, too intimate an activity in the workplace for many people.

Yet at Chinese real estate giant Tiantai Group, known as Tentimes Group in English, that is exactly what they do in the boardroom before making important decisions.

Three-quarters of the firm’s eight-strong senior management team are Christians and founder and chairman Wang Ruoxiong, who himself became a Christian seven years ago, says that when the company has to make difficult decisions, it turns to the Bible for guidance.

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

THE angel Gabriel, in the mystery of the Annunciation, informed the Mother of God that her cousin Elizabeth had miraculously conceived, and was then pregnant with a son who was to be the precursor of the Messias. The Blessed Virgin out of humility concealed the wonderful dignity to which she was raised by the incarnation of the Son of God in her womb, but, in the transport of her holy joy and gratitude, determined she would go to congratulate the mother of the Baptist. “Mary therefore arose,” saith St. Luke, “and with haste went into the hilly country into a city of Judea, and entering into the house of Zachary, saluted Elizabeth.”

Who Is the Valiant Woman in the Book of Maccabees

After the death of Alexander the Great, his generals divided his empire into regional sections. Soon, the holy land of Judaea was controlled by a dynasty of kings known as the Seleucids. There were good kings and bad kings in the Seleucid dynasty. King Antiochus Epiphenes IV was a bad king. At first, he “spoke peaceable words to [the Jews] and they believed him” (1 Maccabees 1:30). But later, the emboldened king marched into Palestine and “murdered many people of Israel.” The tyrant “took captive of the women and children,” looted the holy temple itself, and defiled the sanctuary.

Why Aquinas’ Argument for God Succeeds and Others Fall Short

Does God exist? Readers here at Strange Notions are well aware that throughout the centuries there have been no few attempts in constructing arguments to support an affirmative answer to this question. This is no less true today (I previously took a shot at making my humble contribution to the discussion here at Strange Notions, which you can read in six parts). Christian philosophers have put forth a considerable amount of effort in constructing supporting arguments for God’s existence. As good as some of these arguments are, however, in my opinion they often fall short in accomplishing what arguments in the Thomistic tradition accomplish.

Why Did Jesus Say On The Cross That God Had Forsaken Him?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus cried out on the cross, why God has forsaken Him?  What did that mean?

Did the Father Forsake Jesus?

We read of the account where Jesus cried out to the Father about being forsaken just before He died in Matthew 27:45-50 “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?‘ And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, ‘This man is calling Elijah.’  And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.  But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.”

The Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life

In the battle to win hearts and minds to the cause of life, it is sometimes necessary to speak in non-religious terms.  This is certainly possible and effective.

For example, medical science and biology can help us defend the lives of unborn children and argue persuasively for an end to abortion.

An unborn child is alive.

An unborn child is demonstrably human.

An unborn child is a unique human life with DNA that is distinct from each parent.

These are scientific facts. The unborn child does not have the potential to be a human life, the unborn child is already a human life. Fact.

The Best Advice for Discerning God’s Will

Personally I have had to discern God’s will many times over the years. At first I had to make the big decision of what to do after high school. In the last two years before I graduated, I had a deep conversion and sincerely wanted to do God’s will. At first I thought I was called to enter college and then get married. While praying, I didn’t have a lot of peace about the situation, but I really liked this girl that I was dating. I didn’t want to give it all up, so I persisted and applied to a local university.

Saints: Our Unseen Prayer Partners

Some of my non-Catholic friends find prayer to the saints ooky. They ask me, “Since when is talking to a bunch of dead guys Christian?”

Since biblical times. Consider Moses. He had been a dead guy for several centuries when Christ began his ministry, yet he was intensely interested in earthly doings judging by his behavior on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30-31). Likewise the various deceased saints in Revelations seem intensely interested in our affairs. So too those mysterious dead folk who visited Jerusalem on Good Friday (Matthew 27:52-53). All this seems to indicate our connection with the dead is unbroken by death.

Love & the Mystery of Sacramental Marriage

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in Christ and in the Church. — St. Paul

We have seen that the primary meaning of marriage — which enables it to serve as an image of the relationship between the soul and God — consists of that closest communion of love whereby two persons become one: one heart, one soul, and one flesh. But what relation does this communion bear toward Jesus, toward the salvation of the soul, and toward the Kingdom of God?

God, Not the State, is the Author of Human Dignity

What do you think of the idea that human dignity is something innate, and not something that the State bestows? Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – a Catholic – tried to make this argument on June 26, and ignited an immediate firestorm of derision and protest notable for its ferocity.

New Republic called it “disgraceful”. Alternet called it “horrifying”.

Huffington Post said it was the “weirdest”. Fusion was left in a state of shock: “jaw-dropping”. Salon judged it “offensive”. Slate called it “petty, hypocritical, and embarrassing”, though in doing so, they grouped Thomas together with the three other dissenting justices (Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito – all Catholics, incidentally)

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness: 15 Catholic Reflections on Inalienable Truths

As we Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it’s a great time to look at some statements of Catholics over the years on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Turns out, we Catholics love all three.

This July 4th, let’s remember to pray for our nation and all of those in America. Let’s pray that God blesses us with the willingness to protect and promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because if we no longer protect innocent life, if we no longer recognize the nature of liberty, if we are no longer allowed the pursuit of happiness, then misery will pursue us.

Jealousy and Judgement

The Gospel of John is different in some significant ways from the three synoptic Gospels. It is more literary and symbolic. St. John leads us theologically deeper into mysteries of God and the created Cosmos. From the beginning man has been imbued with the desire to know the nature of God and the created order, for as Aristotle said “all men desire to know.”

How the Holy Rosary Could Heal the World

Today as I was praying the holy rosary I began to see why this simple devotion is so powerful.

I began to see how the Holy Rosary might heal our common sickness and bring healing to the whole world.

To understand how the healing works we first have to understand the sickness.

Anti-Catholic history in US shows Church has survived and will continue, historian says

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2015 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As bishops warn of current threats to religious liberty in the United States, Catholics can take heart that such challenges have faced them before, and they have persevered, one Church historian says.

The Rosary: Our Response for the Family

Have we lost control of country? Are we powerless to respond to the crisis of family life? In the midst of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, it is important to remember that God orders all things by his providence. He allows us to suffer and face challenges, as a means of sharing in his crucified kingship.

A Nigerian Bishop, His Excellency Oliver Dashe Doeme, received an important reminder of this reality when the Lord appeared to him. In response to the devastation of his community by Muslim terrorism, Jesus showed him how he could lead his flock to overcome this deadly threat:

Our Lives: More Than a Snapshot

We’ve launched a new video series at work called Caffeine and Catholicism, designed to be your quick jolt for living out the Catholic faith.

In this premiere episode (seen below) we’ll answer the age old question: how do you convert your friends and family?

As I discussed in the video, years ago I worked in the IT industry, leading teams to develop software systems, which gave me the awesome opportunity to work with a wide and diverse range of people.

Around that same time (late 90’s/early 2000’s), I was experiencing a re-awakening of my faith, and an absolutely unquenchable desire to save souls for Jesus Christ.

We’re Catholics. Everything’s Connected

I heard about this Methodist minister who  had decided to make his church more liturgical so on Ash Wednesday he got some ashes from the fireplace and added some water and smeared the mess on the heads of his people.

Thinking he could do better he trotted off to the Catholic priest and asked, “Where do you get those tidy ashes you use for Ash Wednesday?”

“We create the ashes for Ash Wednesday on Shrove Tuesday by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.”

The Methodist was awestruck, “Gee, all this Catholic stuff’s connected!”

The Shroud of Turin and Technoscience

COMMENTARY: The more the cloth is investigated, the more the evidence accumulates for its authenticity.

Our train was speeding up the Italian peninsula at 100-plus miles an hour.

Equipped with PowerPoints, flat screens and Wi-Fi, it was the epitome of everything techno-scientific about the modern age.

The clash, therefore, with our vacation destination pushed the irony as fast and as far as the train itself, for we were going to venerate the Shroud of Turin.

[Video] How My Family Dresses for Mass

When my friend Eric Coughlin from Two Sense Films emailed me describing his new project, I thought it was a great idea. He wanted to create a short movie on dressing respectfully for Mass. His last film on altar servers was fantastic so I knew this would be another winner.

Then Eric asked if my family wanted to participate. I told him we would be honored. But I quickly added that, with four kids six and under, getting everyone ready for Mass often resembles a hostage negotiation. He said that was fine. Eric came over early one morning, filmed us getting ready, accompanied us to Mass, and the kids had a blast.

This morning he released the finished project. Please watch and share it around!

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