In today’s gospel, Jesus sends the Twelve out on mission. It is the same mission that the Father gave to his Son – the mission to preach repentance and healing. It is the same mission that we have, to continue the work of the disciples. Jesus makes it clear however, that this work will only be successful if concerns about material and physical things are given less importance than the preaching of the kingdom of God. We cannot hope to be real heralds of the Good News unless we are authentic – unless we are truly sincere about our faith and show this in our lives. Just as Jesus told his Twelve to take a risk and to travel light, so he tells us in our day to also take a risk in preaching repentance and healing. The “risk” is that we are to begin with ourselves and to have the courage to change our sinful hearts. Yes, we all have sinful hearts. It is important for us to live for Jesus alone and this means that we should repent of a materialistic way of life.
The readings from today remind me of a popular novel that was eventually made into a movie. The name of it is [Quo Vadis - which means in Latin “Where are you going?”] This is a story of the early church and especially of St. Peter’s struggle to find the courage to lead the first believers in Rome. One of my favorite passages is about a young Roman man who falls in love with a Christian girl. Since he is not a disciple of Jesus, she will have nothing to do with him. One night he follows her to a prayer meeting and there he hears St. Peter (no less) preach with great conviction. After hearing this and seeing the sincerity of the Christians present, including the one he loves, he realizes that if he wants to follow this teaching, he would have to place on a burning pile all of his thoughts and habits, his whole character and indeed his whole nature up until that moment. Only when this fire had burned his entire past into ashes would he be able to fill himself with a life altogether different – to become an entirely new person. This is repentance! It is serious and not half‐hearted. This is what Jesus preached. This is what the Twelve preached. This is what we are called to preach. But we cannot do it unless our own repentance is authentic and complete. The temptation is to point to the other guy and say, you need to repent. But we cannot convince the other guy to repent until we repent, and until our repentance brings healing. Then our example of wholeheartedly living out the Gospel will attract others to the good news of the Gospel, the Gospel of Life, the Gospel of Justice, and the Gospel of Peace.
As many or you know my wife Liz and I are about to begin our missionary journey in a little less than 2 weeks. We will initially receive training with the Salesian in New York, followed by attending an Immersion Spanish School in Guatemala, and then final placement in Bolivia. Yet, this journey actually began many months ago when we started to purge the possessions from our lives. Week by week the possessions from many years began to disappear as we had yard sales, gave items to friends and family, and gave donations. It didn’t take long and the whole house and garage were empty. Yet, the climatic event was when our house sold and we were without a home, only retaining a few sentimental possessions, items that could fit into our vehicle. I didn’t know what it would feel like being void of everything that I had accumulated until that moment when we drove away from our former home. I pondered that feeling for many hours and maybe I am still processing some of those feeling yet today…. But to sum it up, what I carry is a feeling of total freedom. The burden of possessions is gone; the responsibility of owning and paying for things has been lifted. I feel unattached and able to give in a way I have never experienced before. When Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing for their journey he knew that worldly things would get in the way of spreading the message of God. Our lives have to be authentic and what we teach and preach are to be lived out by us. It is necessary for us to “travel light” as we preach the Good News. Only then will our Catholic lives be attractive to others. Only then will we begin to fill the hunger of those around us. Only then will the healing begin. In today’s gospel, Jesus left it up to the Twelve. Today he leaves it up to us. Let’s Become Authentic in our Faith! Start today to purge from your lives all that which has become an obstacle in your life of faith! Begin today to preach repentance by your actions and your life! Be not afraid, Take a risk, and become… authentically and joyfully Catholic!