11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A ~ June 18, 2023
HE CALLS US BY OUR NAMES
The new parish priest of a small town arrived at the Church encouraged and motivated to celebrate an evening Mass, but as hours passed, no one came. After a long time, three children entered; 20 minutes after that, two young people entered. So, the priest decided to start the Mass with the five people. Over the course of Mass, a couple came in who sat on the last benches of the church.
When the priest preached and explained the Gospel, another half-dirty person came in with a rope in his hand. Disappointed and not understanding the cause of the weak involvement of the faithful, the priest nevertheless celebrated Mass with love and preached with enthusiasm and zeal.
On his way back home, he was robbed and beaten by two thieves who carried his folder where his Bible and other valued belongings were. Arriving at his rectory, while bandaging his wounds, he described that day as: “The saddest day of my life, a failure of my ministry, and the most unfruitful day of my career; but… never mind, I do everything with God and for Him.”
After five years, the priest decided to share this story with parishioners at church. When he was finished telling the story, a couple in that parish stopped him and said, “Father, the couple in the story that sat at the back was us. We were on the brink of separation because of several problems and disagreements in our home. That night we finally decided to divorce, but first we decided to come to church one last time as a couple and then each one would follow their path. However, we left the thought of divorce aside after listening to your homily that same night. As a result of your homily, today we are here with our home and family restored”.
As the couple spoke, one of the most successful entrepreneurs who helped in the livelihood of that church raised up his hand, asking to speak and when given the opportunity he said, “Father, I am the person who came in half dirty with a rope in my hand. I was on the verge of bankruptcy, lost in drugs, my wife and my kids had left home on account of my behavior. That night I tried to kill myself, but the rope broke so I went out to buy another one. When I got on my way, I saw the church open, I decided to come in even though I was so dirty and had a rope in my hand. That night, your homily pierced my heart, and I walked out of here a changed person. Today I’m off the drugs, my family came home, and I became the most successful businessman in the town.”
At the gate of the sacristy entrance, the Deacon shouted, ′′Father, I was one of those thieves who stole your belongings. The other one died that same night while we were doing the second robbery. In his briefcase, there was a Bible. I read it every time I woke up in the morning. After all this reading, I decided to apply it to my life and participate in this church.” The priest was shocked and started crying along with the faithful. After all, that night he regarded as a night of failure was a very productive night.
Today’s Readings are speaking the exact message to us, God has chosen with out limitations and have called us by our names because no matter how fragile and sinful we may be, if we commit all our work and vocations into the hands of the Lord, He will make it good. We should therefore always exercise our calling (work/mission) with dedication and zeal, giving it our best every day, because we can be instruments God can use for the good of someone else’s life. And always keep in mind that even in the worst days of our lives we can still be a blessing to someone else because God can use the “bad circumstances” of a life to produce the best for others.
The Priest Origin calls us to understand our journey of faith and calling with commitment to our baptismal promises. “As a Christian, you should not be amazed to hear of these wonders performed for men of the past. The divine Word promises much greater and more lofty things to you who have passed through Jordan’s stream by the sacrament of baptism: he promises you a passage even through the sky. Listen to what Paul says concerning the just: We shall be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ in heaven, and so we shall always be with the Lord. There is absolutely nothing for the just man to fear; the whole of creation serves him. Listen to another promise that God makes him through the prophet: If you pass through fire, the flame shall not burn you, for I am the Lord your God. The just man is everywhere welcome, and everything renders him due service. So, you must not think that these events belong only to the past, and that you who now hear the account of them do not experience anything of the kind. It is in you that they all find their spiritual fulfillment. You have recently abandoned the darkness of idolatry, and you now desire to come and hear the divine law. This is your departure from Egypt. When you became a catechumen and began to obey the laws of the Church, you passed through the Red Sea; now at the various stops in the desert, you give time every day to hear the law of God and to see the face of Moses unveiled by the glory of God. But once you come to the baptismal font and, in the presence of the priests and deacons, are initiated into those sacred and august mysteries which only those know who should, then, through the ministry of the priests, you will cross the Jordan and enter the promised land. There Moses will hand you over to Jesus, and He himself will be your guide on your new journey. Mindful, then, of all the mighty works of God, remembering that he divided the sea for you and held back the waters of the river, you will turn to them and say: Why was it, sea, that you fled? Jordan, why did you turn back? Mountains, why did you skip like rams, and you hills, like young sheep? And the word of the Lord will reply: The earth is shaken at the face of the Lord, at the face of the God of Jacob, who turns stones into a pool and rock into springs of water”.
The Bible is full of vocation stories for us to read and reflect. I would like to share some of them briefly to refresh our minds.
Noah was called to be a symbol of purification and save the righteous during the Great Flood which became the symbol of baptism which makes an end to our sins.
Abraham was called to leave his ancestral land and go to an unknown land to dwell. His commitment and dedication to his call was rewarded by having a son and he himself became the father of the multitudes.
Jacob was chosen to be called Israel and became the foundation of the chosen nation.
Moses was called to save Israel from Egyptian slavery and lead them to the promised land.
Samuel was chosen to be the judge over Israel who set the house of Israel in a systematic nation.
Then we can also read the stories of prophets’ call to be the messenger of God’s merciful work. Some of them chosen from their mothers’ womb even before they were born.
God calls everyday to remind us that whatever the life we are living, it’s from his divine providence. He cares about us. Following is a little passage from St. Therese of Child Jesus which shows that how God cares about us. Mother Agnes of Jesus shares: “Descending the steps leading into the garden, Thérèse saw a little white hen under a tree, protecting her little chicks under her wings; some were peeping out from under. I noticed her eyes were filled with tears, and I said: “You’re crying!” She put her hand over her eyes and cried even more. “I can’t explain it just now; I’m too deeply touched.” That evening, in her cell, she told me the following, and there was a heavenly expression on her face: “I cried when I thought how God used this image to teach us His tenderness towards us. All through my life, this is what He has done for me! He has hidden me totally under His wings! Earlier in the day, when I was leaving you, I was crying when going upstairs; I was unable to control myself any longer, and I hastened to our cell. My heart was overflowing with love and gratitude.” Saint Thérèse, Last Conversations
Holy Father Pope Francis says “A disciple of the Lord, is called to set out on a journey that is not a “stroll” but a mission to proclaim the Gospel and spread the good news of Salvation. And this is the task that Jesus gives to his disciples. One who “stands still and doesn’t go out, doesn’t give to others what he received in Baptism, is not a true disciple of Jesus”. Indeed, “he lacks the missionary spirit”, and doesn’t “go out of himself to bring something good to others”.
He continues to say “We are called to serve and love our brothers and sisters in the same way that God has done with us. Realize that the Lord is full of gifts for us. He asks just one thing: that our hearts be open. When we say, ‘Our Father’ and we pray, we open our heart, allowing this gratuitousness to enter. All God’s gifts are given without cost. And sometimes the heart folds in on itself and remains closed, and it is no longer able to receive such freely given love.
We should not bargain with God. In our spiritual life we always run the risk of slipping up on the question of payment, even when speaking with the Lord, as if we needed to bribe the Lord. No! That is not the correct path. Christian life means walking. Preach and serve, but do not make use of others. Serve and give freely that which you have received freely.
Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning.
He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him.
He asked people for change to buy food – no one in the church gave him change.
He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back.
He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such.
When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation.
“We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.
The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him.
He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry, and many heads were bowed in shame.
He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”
He then dismissed service until next week.
The Gospel today reminds us that we called by our name to the instruments of divine love and mercy to other people. Do we respect our call? Do we keep the honour and dignity of our names? Remember what St. Paul says, “we have received this ministry from the Lord and we do not loose our hearts…because it is not ours but the power of God that he has called us” (2 Corinthians 4:1-15).
Other Sermons In This Series
December 23, 2021
September 23, 2022
April 21, 2023