Sunday, June 15, 2008

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A cycle

Reading 1. Exodus 19: 2-6a
Reading II. Romans 5: 6-11
Gospel. Matthew 9:36—10:8 (the harvest is abundant).

Today is Father’s day and coincidentally the readings all deal with a calling to a special vocation or mission. In the first reading from the Book of Exodus the Lord instructs Moses to tell the people that if they hearken to the voice of the Lord and keep His covenant, they shall be “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” Not just the priests but the whole nation of Israel is being called to do the work of the Lord.

Today’s gospel reading starts with the end of the 9th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. This chapter is full of incredible works. By this time crowds are following Jesus and everywhere He turns there is work to do. He heals a paralyzed man after forgiving his sins. “Take up your pallet and walk.” Then He brings the daughter of Jairus, called by Matthew a ruler, back from the dead. On the way to the girl’s house a woman suffering from a hemorrhage is healed by just touching His cloak. After He left the house of Jairus, two blind men follow Jesus begging for their sight. He cures them also.

Matthew who had himself been called to follow Jesus in the midst of these miracles indicates that these extraordinary events he describes were just the tip of the iceberg.

And Jesus was going about all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every kind of disease and infirmity.

At this point today’s gospel begins. The reading tells us that,

At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved
With pity for them
Because they were troubled and abandoned,
Like sheep without a shepherd.

There was so much work to be done. Wherever He turned there were people in need of physical or spiritual healing. At this point in the narrative Jesus summoned twelve of his disciples and deputized them. Matthew gives us their names and a little information about them. Scholars tell us that the number twelve is important since it reminds us of the 12 tribes of Israel. In other words, just as the twelve tribes signified the whole people or nation of Israel, the twelve Apostles signify the whole Church.

In the first reading the Lord said that Israel would be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. In the same way Jesus makes it very clear throughout the gospels that we are all to share in the work of healing.

Today, everyone here in church is here for a reason. Most of us are feeling some pain or anxiety either for ourselves or for our loved ones. Aren’t we like the crowds that followed Jesus? Outside the Church there are millions who also feel troubled and abandoned. Just read Anne Landers or Dear Abby to see how much people need healing.

Typically, these modern day gurus advise people to see a counselor, as if there were enough counsellors to go around for all of us. Other people turn to drugs, legal or illegal, to cure their pain. Some of the most widely prescribed drugs are designed to counter depression and produce happiness. Even our wealthy and powerful and famous citizens have not escaped the epidemic of unhappiness. What’s going on?

Today is Father’s day. Is there any more difficult job than the one faced by fathers today? On this day society pays lip service to fathers but on every other day they are mocked and vilified. Comic strips, TV shows, and even commercials portray fathers as inept bumblers. More seriously, the very concept of Fatherhood has been attacked. Statistics show an alarming percentage of children being born without fathers. Everywhere we see men abandoning, and abusing their children, and even urging that they be aborted.

In every walk of life sacrifice is necessary to be successful. The best athletes are the ones who practice the longest and hardest. The best businessmen or women are those that pay the most attention to their clients. A father must give up a lot for his children but our Lord tells us that if we give up our life, we will find it. Let’s pray today that fathers will deny themselves, and take up their cross, and do their work.

Here is a little prayer for fathers:

Our Father in Heaven, we thank you for all the fathers on earth who,
Like St. Joseph, accept the responsibility to care for and love their children.
May you strengthen them with the kindness, patience and wisdom they need
To encourage and guide their children.
May they be supported by a steadfast wife, a caring family and good friends.
Most of all, may they know that you and you alone are the source of all that is
Good and truly valuable in this world.

The words Jesus addressed to His first Apostles are addressed to all of us, “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.”


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