A homily given in a parish where I will filling in for the pastor while he was away.
As I mentioned before my name is Fr. Geoffrey Brooke, I was just ordained two weeks ago. I will be returning to Rome in September, but for now I will be with you all for this weekend and next weekend while Fr. Mark is away.
Thank you for your kind welcome, taking the advice from today’s Gospel, I won’t be shaking the dust off my sandals and walking away, because you all have been so gracious in welcoming me into your community, but unfortunately I can only stay for a few weeks. Even more unfortunately, I’ll miss the picnic.
As one who was just so recently ordained, the line from our first reading, “The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” strikes a chord as it was not all too long ago, that I felt called. But the truth is that we are ALL called. It’s an inherent part of our being Christian.
Our gospel today notes that a part of that being called is actually really a being sent. Just as the Apostles are sent forth to preach the gospel, so too we are sent. No, this does not mean that we are all meant to walk around in tunics going door to door.
The seminarian assigned to this parish, my good friend, Paul Clark, went off this week on a 10 day mission trip to Bolivia, when he comes back I encourage you all to ask him about his experiences. Unfortunately, not all of us can go on such trips for one reason or another.
Rather for us this takes on new and different forms. You all are called to witness here in your community. You are sent to your workplaces, your schools, or camps or whatever you all do during the summer,
We do this by the way we treat others, the way we speak about others. The way we talk with others, do our words and actions correspond with the Gospel message we have been sent to proclaim?
We preach the Gospel by how we choose to prioritize our time and life. There are seemingly so many things to get involved with these days, so our choices speak quite loudly.
On Wednesday night I was here at the rectory having dinner with Paul before he left, there was a group of you all who were here preparing things for the upcoming picnic. You gave up an evening to help out. You could have chosen something else, but instead you placed an importance on this community of faith. So when people asked you what you were doing that evening, what did you all say? Did you have to reject any other invitations? By your choice to give up of your time, you witness to others, saying, my faith, and this community is important to me. And by all accounts, the experience itself wasn’t too painful either…
We have to be willing to preach the Gospel with how we use our time. This also means that we don’t just see these things as more work, or another volunteer opportunity, but that we really recognize the deeper meaning behind our actions and commitments.
When I was in high school I played football and I was also active in my parish’s youth group. My weekends were often spent busy with youth group activities so maybe on a Saturday I might go to a soup kitchen and then on Sunday Mass and other fun activities afterwards, lots of different things. But then on Monday morning when my football friends asked me, “Hey where were you this weekend?” I would respond, “Busy.” I wouldn’t tell them I was involved in my faith. I was failing in my call to be an apostle.
Something was holding me back. In today’s Gospel Christ says to the Apostles, “to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” Those are the things that were holding the Apostles back from being able to give it their all. For me it was fear. Fear of how my teammates would react and treat me. Eventually my senior year, when I started to be more honest with them, to tell them that I was involved in the parish and my faith, there indeed was a harsh reaction. I was mocked, had food thrown at me, and even threatened. But for me it was fear that was holding me back.
What’s holding you back? Is it fear? Do you already feel overburdened? Maybe you have doubts? A lack of self-confidence? Afraid of what others might think of you? Are we too attached to other groups, activities and things?
Whatever it might be for we must work to let go of that baggage, as we have been instructed by Christ. For when we let go of those things then we will be free to be a more authentic witness of the Gospel.
This letting go can be difficult because we are weak and we all have our struggles. Thankfully we are not alone. First of all we have each other to turn to, most immediately our families and also the entire parish community. Secondly Christ, through his Church has provided the sacraments. Specifically reconciliation for when we fall short, and the Eucharist to nourish us and give us the strength to go forward in carrying out our call to spread the Gospel.