July 4: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time C
Readings: Is 66:10-14c; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12,17-20
The prophet Isaiah in the first reading uses the image of sucking milk from abundant breasts to describe Jerusalem as a mother nursing her baby. That is the image of the New Jerusalem – the Church as she nurses us - her children. In the earthly language of ancient Palestine, the image emphasizes that Jerusalem’s breasts are large and filled with milk. The link between us and our Church is so intimate and real. It is also a matter of life and death. We are told to drink fully of the milk of her comfort and nurse with delight at her abundant breasts. Years ago there was a picture of a mother and her baby in Ethiopia during one of the worst droughts that brought a horrible famine and starvation there. The mother could not eat enough food for her breasts to produce milk for her baby. She sat there, her eyes glazed over with suffering beyond imagination. She sat helplessly watching her baby crying and dying of starvation. The Church faces a similar dilemma today. The children that need nourishment are so numerous that at times she sits and watches some starving to death. Others do not even want to feed from her breasts!
Against this background of nourishment, Jesus in the Gospel sends out his disciples to prepare the places where he will soon come. The mission: “Whatever town you enter into and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, The Kingdom of God is at hand." Thus Jesus asks us to trust God and to remember the purpose of our mission: to help feed the multitudes who are hungry and thirsty for God’s Word; those who yearn for peace and for healing. They so urgently need nourishment, healing and peace. The harvest is ripe, but wasting in the fields; we need more hands; we need more disciples to feed more people and bring about the so much needed peace. It is so easy to get bogged down in institutions wonderful as they are, and forget the main focus of our ministry. The purpose of our mission is to nourish God’s people - those who are hungering and thirsting for the Word of God. In the midst of human brokenness, they need wholeness; in the midst of disintegrating married life, they yearn for reconciliation and forgiveness; in the midst of spiritual dehydration, they search for spiritual water to restore their strength. All they are looking for is a word that touches their real situation where they are right now. Recently on Sunday morning, several parishioners came to me after Mass. One embraced me and asked me: “Father were you speaking to me in that homily? I was so touched Father.” My response was that we leave the Holy Spirit to direct the message to every needful person. In the Gospel, Luke uses several images to help us understand the kind of Kingdom Jesus wants his disciples to announce. The first image is harvest being abundant. All the fruits imaginable, the wheat, the corn, the grapes, the yams, the onions, the garlic, the chili peppers are all ready for the harvest. The second image is of workers being few. From a human perspective we need a human solution, organize a workshop on vocations, employ a vocations director, mobilize the parishes to round up all the young men and women! Jesus' solution is very simple. He does not propose a program nor a seminar to study the situation! The third image is around what Jesus proposes as a solution. Jesus asks his Disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers. In contrast, our human tendency is action: setting a task-force to study the matter! We need both prayer and action. Prayer will nourish and help us discern what we need to do. So what message do we take home? 1) We need to eat something; to be nourished from the breasts of our dear mother Church, so that we will remain strong to be sent into the harvest; prayer and bible reading are an essential part of that nourishment. 2) Jesus sent his disciples to nourish people by proclaim God's gift of healing, peace and reconciliation. We too are sent to do no less, to be instruments of healing, peace and reconciliation; 3) Jesus asked his disciples to take nothing with them except the essential, we too as worker for the kingdom are called to travel light spiritually; to be conscious of the junk we do not need; things that would weigh us down or hinder our task of nourishing ourselves and others in the Kingdom. Think about it.
©2010 John S. Mbinda