September Institute Homily: 9/24/14

“Jesus summoned his apostles”

“Jesus gave them power and authority … over all demons and to cure diseases

“Jesus sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick…”

Recently, someone sent me a new book, and I took a look at the preface and did not get much further than the opening line: “About fifty years ago, the remarkable theologian, Karl Rahner, made an intriguing comment about the forthcoming generations of Christians. He said that the future believer will be either a mystic or not believe at all.” (Msgr. Ricardo di Curci, Forward to Looking Over His Shoulders)

This quote seemed to be a good launching pad for this homily, and our purpose in gathering this week.

“Jesus summoned his apostles”

During last night’s prayer service, a young woman, Samantha, shared with us a brief segment of her life experience which reveals the manner in which God was active in her life. At the time, I’m sure His presence was not clearly recognizable (mystery) to her, but God was none the less revealed in her life experience (manner of life.)

My friends, we are just as capable of encountering God as did Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Mary and Joseph, and the apostles referred to in the Gospel today.

However, we must know and believe; it is not thoughts of God the soul desires, but union with God. The very desire to know Christ; to experience Christ is an encounter with Him.

How many of us today have preconceived notions of what this ‘union with God’ looks like? How many of us believe that only a few can be mystics? In truth, we are each and every one of us created by God for union with God. We are ‘hardwired’ for this ‘mystical’ experience.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for us to truly believe this, as well as to learn to discern our union, our experience with God, is that God does prefer to remain humbly hidden. God’s preferred means of encounter with us is through ‘mystery.’ But the mysterious nature of God and of God’s ways does not mean it is impossible for us to have intimate contact with God.

“Jesus gave them power and authority … over all demons and to cure diseases

So, if we believe that Jesus has summoned each of us, just as he did his Apostles, (and we do believe this,) then we also believe that Jesus summons us for a purpose, and gives each of us what we need to accomplish God’s work. Jesus gave power and authority to the Apostles, what has he given each of us?

To a large extent, because we are members of Christ’s body through baptism, we have received the same gifts of the Apostles, just in different manner and degree. The power and authority given to the Apostles was Christ’s own power and authority. We believe Christ is the spoken word of God, the Word made flesh. That is why Jesus could speak with authority, because He is the very voice of God. We have access to the Word of God, and are called to be students of God’s word. The Book of Proverbs today reminds us:

Every word of God is tested; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Add nothing to his words… Two things I ask of you, Put falsehood and lying far from me, and give me neither poverty nor riches.”

As those summoned by Jesus, we are to be schooled in the Word of God, and our entire ‘manner of life’ is to be integrated by God’s Word. This Word is truth, and it will guide us through the many false philosophies of our day, because ‘God’s word endures forever; it is firm as the heavens.’ (Psalm 119) As the Psalmist also instructs us today, “the Word of God is a lamp for my feet.” What else are our feet used for but to carry us through this life, and God is always there to guide our way, because He has created us for union with Him, for intimacy, friendship, love, tenderness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness.

The more our life is informed by the wisdom of God’s Word, the more our own words will take on the authority of Jesus, and the better able we will be capable of experiencing and cooperating with the mystery of God’s presence and action in our life. We will be more credible in accompanying others in their desire to discover the mystery of God in their life.

Besides the theological gifts we receive from and through Christ, there are the very practical gifts of our unique personality. Because God has created each of us, and because we are known by God, we are capable of ‘possessing Christ’s redemption, both in mystery and in the manner of life we live. (Roman Missal, Prayer After Communion, Week 24) At the same time, because we share in the fallen nature of humanity, we will be tempted to call into question God’s ways. We will be seemingly unable at times to receive what God desires to give us, because we have our own narrow vision of what we need, even when it comes to how we are to cooperate with God. This is because we are unwilling or possibly at times, unable, to place our complete trust in God. We would rather trust in our own power, and things, and ways familiar. But God is always calling us beyond our self, to cast our nets into the deep, to follow him into the unknown. In other words, the Light God places at our feet to guide us will lead us by paths unknown.

A part of my own story is that I have this pre-conceived notion that I need a greater intellect to be a good bishop. Granted, a keener intellect would come in very handy at times, but what is most important for me is to realize and utilize the gifts God has given me to be the very bishop he has summoned me to be for his people. (That is already probably more self-revelation than you want, so I’ll not go into any more personal detail.)

What I have learned is that I do not need to know everything. All I need to know is the One Who does. In the words of St. Paul: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” This is why in the Gospel today, when Jesus sends the apostles, he tells them to take nothing with them, so that their sole resource and strength is the power and will of God. Thus, Christ becomes for the apostles their power and authority. Their lives are no longer self-referential, but they have become true Christ-bearers. This is the challenge for us and for every disciple.

Final point… “Jesus sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick…”

Here it would be easy to remember only that the apostles are sent by Jesus to proclaim the Kingdom of God. But there is more … to heal the sick. Here, it seem ‘the sick’ mean far more than the physically ill. It would seem in this context that a part of this sending of Jesus and the task of healing has everything to do with the first task, which is proclaiming, living, revealing the Kingdom of God to every human person. But, in order for our discipleship to bear fruit, the ordering in today’s Gospel is critical. We must be clear and consciously aware of our calling.

Jesus calls us by name and summons us to himself. If we are to be credible in the manner in which we encounter, encourage and accompany the youth of the church today, we must have our life in Christ firmly rooted and established. If we are to be successful in our efforts to encounter, encourage and accompany the youth of our church today, we must realize that our power and authority is only in God and in our relationship with Christ.

So my friends, we are summoned by Christ. We are called to live the mystery of Christ’s life in the manner of life we live. We are sent by Christ to encounter, encourage and accompany his people in his name.