Sunday, June 25, 2017

But the Gift

But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.  Romans 5:15

So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. Matthew 10:31-32

Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey.  As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost, you are to give. (sort of from Matthew 10:6-8)  

Today is the first “green” Sunday since February 26.  We offered up five (purple and rose) weeks of Lent.  We suffered with Jesus through the blood-red Triduum.  We rejoiced with the disciples who found the joyful whiteness of the empty tomb for 50 days of Easter until we closed that season with the Ascension and Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. 

We returned to ordinary time with two consecutive solemn feast days – celebrating the Trinity now manifest following Pentecost – and Corpus Christi Sunday where the gifts of the body and blood of Christ become our daily food.

Yesterday (Saturday), we read how something as simple as one of the most common boy’s names propelled “Little Zach” onto a path of prophecy. Now, in their latest assignment, the identity of the disciples changes as they follow Jesus’s little instructions. The ordered days that return to us are as green as the grass, leaves, gables, and vestments.  But that verdant field will be flowing with blood and the disciples face the persecutions ahead of Jesus’ travel orders. 

Ordinary time brings us back to the readings from the tax collector. Today’s Gospel is part of the commissioning Jesus gives to Levi and the other eleven before sending them out of their old careers and comfort zone and into their new identities as disciples as companions on the journey of their first mission.  The mission was new for all of them.  They were leaving behind the work of fishing, doctoring, tax collecting, and more to reach the lost sheep. 

Jesus warns them that such personal and public boundary-crossing work will not be easy nor will it come without new burdens. Just like the disciples are entering new careers, so, too, will the people who will hear their message and be healed.  These people will experience rebirth thanks to the disciples’ ministry.  Yet that very message and mission will upset the regular order of the ordinary days and the existing power structure.  In order to maintain the old ways, those in power will persecute the disciples. 

That is why, after these extensive instructions, Jesus reminds them that both he and his Father will be watching over them at all time.  So, do not be afraid, he orders.

We are in the midst of the “Fortnight for Freedom.”  Each year dioceses around the country arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. The Fortnight for Freedom is from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day.

We are called just like the Twelve in Matthew 10 to follow Christ as missionary disciples by seeking the truth of a consistent ethic of life while serving others, and living our faith in spite of our society’s efforts otherwise. Take a few moments each day from June 21 - July 4 to pray, reflect, and take action on how this important mission has also been handed down to us. 

We see the headlines about religious freedom and the cultural contradictions that percolate up to the Supreme Court.  Let’s not forget that this includes freedom to serve immigrants and refugees. I experienced how important that work was when helping to resettle Indo-Chinese refugees in North Carolina after the Vietnam War.

But for the gift, the gracious gift of Jesus, that overflows for the many – including those like Jesus who have no place to lay their head.  Let us pray for a consistent ethic of life in all our laws including that the Lord protect all migrants and refugees from all countries including his native Middle East region, and that all those who work with people on the move would be free to serve them no matter what their country of origin – travel bans aside.

The USCCB reminds us:
Christians are committed to caring for the vulnerable, and migrants and refugees are some of the most vulnerable. The Church has long sought to serve the unique needs of “people on the move,” from providing for basic needs to assisting with resettlement, to offering legal services to help newcomers navigate the system of their host country. In recent years, new laws and regulations have been proposed that have the effect of restricting the Church’s ability to serve. Under one state law, even giving an undocumented person a ride to Mass could have been deemed a criminal offense. Furthermore, the new federal Administration has sought to drastically reduce the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. and has suspended the resettlement of refugees from countries where many people face violent persecution. The Church is called to serve the vulnerable, and we must remain steadfast in our commitment to solidarity with migrants and refugees Freedom to serve migrants and refugees.

The USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants Campaign is an effort to unite and mobilize a growing network of Catholic entities and people of goodwill in support of immigration reform. Get news, resources, and action alerts from Justice for Immigrants at

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