Saturday, July 13, 2013

7 July 2013 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading: Isaiah 66.10-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 62
Second Reading: Galatians 6:14-18
Gospel: Luke 10.1-12, [13-16], 17-20

Today’s gospel is about evangelization.  The word, “evangelization” has become, for many of us, a word that sends up red flags.  This is because, unfortunately, for almost two millennia, evangelization has been used more as a weapon than as an invitation to follow Christ’s example of peace and love.  Let’s examine evangelization from Jesus’ perspective.  He knows there are plenty of people out there who would be open to hearing the Good News.  He also knows that there are plenty who don’t want to hear it.  But Jesus sends out his disciples like lambs into a sea of wolves. 

We live in a culture of ravenous consumption and accumulation.  We seek to accumulate more and more money, more and more power and more and more ad nauseam.  The more we have, the more we want and more we have to get; the more we get the more we have to have.  It is a gluttonous and seemingly endless spiral. 

Jesus didn’t want his ambassadors to emulate the predators of his day.  No, He tells them to “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.”  That means to carry themselves with humility and simplicity and not to engage people or situations that would hinder them in their mission. 

But Jesus doesn’t send his followers into the world empty-handed. They go bearing one simple message. “Peace.” Jesus tells them: “Into whatever household you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’”  Peace.  Is the great message he is asking them – and asking us – to carry into the world.  Carry no bag, no money, no sandals.  Carry, instead, peace.[1]

Peace is the message and gift of Jesus but we Christians don’t have the best track record in practicing peace.  Perhaps it’s because peace is not an integral part of our prayer lives.  I don’t mean that we don’t pray for peace in this or that part of the world.  Rather that we don’t pray for peace in a way that promotes inner peace.  Peace, like love, begins at home.

Perhaps we could learn something from the Buddhists in this regard.  The Buddhists cultivate compassion through a form meditation called metta or loving-kindness.  In loving-kindness meditation one prays for freedom from hostility and danger, from mental and physical suffering, and for the happiness and well-being, first for oneself, then for loved ones, then acquaintances, for adversaries, and for all sentient beings.   For example,

May I be free from hostility and danger
May all my loved ones be free from hostility and danger
May all my acquaintances be free from hostility and danger
May all my adversaries be free hostility and danger
May all sentient beings be free from hostility and danger

This is repeated for freedom from mental and physical suffering, then for happiness and well-being.  This type of prayer really helps us to change.  A study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have said that cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples' mental states.  They say that thinking about other people's suffering and not just our own helps to put everything in perspective[2].   However, the researchers and Buddhist teachers emphasize that learning compassion for oneself is a critical first step in loving-kindness meditation. 

Peace with and within ourselves makes it easier for us to cultivate detachment.  Detachment can be thought of as preventative medicine against the societal pull towards over consumption and accumulation.  Peace within ourselves also helps us to be detached from the outcomes of our efforts.  The serenity prayer illustrates this point, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."  This prayer asks us to accept that there are things that we can't change.  We must come to an inner peace about them wipe the dust off our feet and move on.

The cultivation of inner peace and detachment are necessary prerequisites to evangelization.   I think the success of the New Evangelization that the Church is promoting depends on a radical and intentional change of focus.  A focus on enhancing the depth in spiritual growth of all its members rather than the growth by numbers is imperative.  Jesus warns his emissaries against flitting from house to house.  He tells them “Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”  

Put in a modern context this means don’t go barging into a situation and start demanding the best of everything.  It means we are called to develop mutual relationships with those who welcome us.  We are to be of service as well as respectful of the people who welcome us and their cultures.  It means preaching that God is love and everyone is loved by God. 

All of us are called to preach and teach the universality of God’s love as well as the virtues of humility, simplicity, peace, and compassion.  We can not do this if we have not developed these qualities within ourselves.  Evangelization, then, begins interiorly, so that exteriorly our actions match our words.  If we don’t evangelize ourselves, we are like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, who heard but did not heed the Word and woe to us!  We cannot be new or true evangelists if we have not first evangelized ourselves.

What are your thoughts on evangelization?


No comments: