Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Future Is Now
Someone recently mentioned to me an aching concern for us in the church. With permission I phrase it as a question: how can we better pass on the experience of encountering Jesus to each other and to succeeding generations? That isn’t only that person’s concern. Luke reminded us in today’s gospel selection it has been the church’s concern from the beginning. Jesus personally sent disciples to do his work of preaching, healing and peace-bringing in order to further his mission. Each of us Christians is his ambassador.
Jesus encounters us and desires to send us. We pass on better the experience of encountering Jesus by pausing each day to consider how Jesus encountered and desired to send us. Do we have misgivings about being sent by Jesus to extend his healing and peace-bearing work? Certainly! I am apprehensive about it, and I’m more like you than different. We all have our misgivings about being sent by Jesus.
One misgiving is fueled by feeling unable. As ambassadors of Jesus we don’t do our work. Jesus sends us to spread his word and cultivate the peace of the reign of God Jesus announced. Acting in the name of another frightens me.
Jesus repeatedly encouraged, “Do not fear!” as angels and prophets often encouraged before Jesus. Not to fear is to be confident. Confident in what? We heard Isaiah express an answer well: the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants. Jesus’ instructions to his 72 other disciples called them to dig deep and stand confident that God would indeed look after them. They personalized that confidence as they carried nothing extra, focused on their mission and their relationship with Jesus and [ate] what was set before them. Indeed through them divine power was felt and seen.
The disciples rejoiced at that. They didn’t dwell on of their privations and restrictions: Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Nor did they object to being vulnerable from the start, like lambs among wolves. Their success was not due to their efforts. Jesus counseled them to know their success as being chosen by God in Jesus by their Spirit when he told them, “do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you. . .rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
This Christian confidence in an empowering God, who responds positively to humans even when we are undeserving, shapes our encounters of God in Jesus in a unique way. It stimulates us to desire Jesus to send us to do his work so that more people can encounter Jesus. Encountering Jesus also unites us to our crucified Messiah. Many find his cross and death offensive. The cross unites us to Jesus, who fully joined our humanity.
Our union with Messiah Jesus inspires how we live. Our union is the Christian mystique, and the energy it offers us. Jesus’ Spirit is the energy of the Christian mystique, inspiring us more and more to be what our shared name of Christian calls us, flesh and blood ambassadors of Jesus for the sake of the world in which we live.
We know the word mystique implies energy by the way we use it: cowboy mystique or feminine mystique or Hollywood mystique. A modern poet said a poet’s speech “often depends on a mystique, on the spiritual freedom that finds itself enslaved on earth.”/1/
The cross of Jesus releases our spiritual freedom if we let it. The cross reminds us that in the human from Nazareth our God died and was raised to absolutely new life. We heard a few weeks ago in his letter that St. Paul indicated he preached to the Galatians with a physical restriction, a personal cross. It united him to them and especially to Jesus/2/: I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. He allowed the power of God to work through him to make many more ambassadors of Jesus. All of them are the reason we are here.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week become more aware of Jesus loving you and choosing you as one of his ambassadors. Praise and thank Jesus for choosing you. Speak to Jesus in your own words, telling him how you feel because he chooses you to continue his mission. Ask Jesus to renew your energy as his disciple and for the grace to look forward to extending his healing and peace-bearing work. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer, our program of living: more united with Jesus, even in his cross; and more joyfully sharing his risen life even now. The future of others and their encounters with Jesus depends on how we encounter Jesus and join his mission.
/1/ Salvatore Quasimodo, 1901-1968. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/salvatoreq374526.html
/2/ ...you know that it was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the gospel to you, and you did not show disdain or contempt because of the trial caused you by my physical condition, but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
Where now is that blessedness of yours? Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me (Galatians 4. 14-15).
Wiki-images of the Apostles Going Forth and of the beginning of Galatians are in the public domain.