June 15, 2008
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

First Reading: Exodux 19: 1-6
Psalm 100
Second Reading:
Romans 5: 6-11
Gospel: Matthew 9: 36 - 10:8

Theme: Becoming Witnesses of Hope in Another's Life

A friend sent me this e-mail, which I think relates to today’s readings. “Seven-year-old David spent Saturdays with his grandfather. He always had fun with grandpa. On this particular day, David, with his inquisitive 7-year-old mind, asked grandpa all kinds of questions. “Grandpa, what happens when you die?” Grandpa had just turned fifty and had not reflected upon dying soon. However, he answered the grandson’s question the best he could, saying that when people die, they go before God, and if they have lived their lives the best they could, God unites them to himself. Still not convinced David asked:

“Does that mean, Grandpa, that when you die you won’t be here anymore?”

“Yes David, I won’t be here anymore,” replied grandpa.

“Does that mean you won’t be able to play “wii” game and “Hide and seek” with me anymore?”

“Yes, David, I won’t be able to play “wii” game and “hide and seek” with you anymore.”

"And you won’t be able to fly a kite with me in the fields?”

“That’s right, David.”

“And you won’t take me fishing anymore?”

“No, buddy, I won’t.”

“Well,” David asked, “who’s going to do those things if you can’t?”

In a very soft voice grandpa responded, “David, hopefully when that time comes, it will be your turn to do all those things and more for another little boy.”

The message of today’s gospel reading is similar to the dialogue between David and his grandpa. The gospel message stresses that God, by his own grace, chooses us and elects us to be witnesses of hope in another’s life. This hope can be cemented in that utter love and friendship for the other, because for Jesus, love is mission. For love, Jesus freely gave his life for our freedom. We received and still receive that gift of sacrifice without payment, and Jesus urges us to give or share our gifts and talents freely with others without payment or expectations. [cf. Matt. 10:8b – holding my ordination theme card]. The mission of love must draw us ever closer to witness to Jesus’ teachings [cf. Matt. 5-7]. It must draw ever closer to Jesus’ power exhibited in miracles [cf. Matt. 8-9]. The mission of love must draw us to respond to Jesus’ call upon us, that we bring God’s kingdom of compassion to the poor and needy, those harassed by the powerful, the helpless and hopeless, the abandoned and dejected, the battered and abused, social leftovers and rejects… in the world. Yes, “Jesus saw the crowds and he had compassion upon them” [cf. Matt. 9:36].

The grandpa in the story at the beginning of my homily did not only have compassion upon the future of his grandson, David; he determined to remain a teacher, the power and disciple to his grandson, David. Without doubt, all of us are like David who need someone to give us hope. God is telling us that “His harvest is plentiful; that there are many – the poor and needy, the helpless and hopeless, the abandoned and dejected, the battered and abused, social leftovers and rejects who need our His presence shown them, but with “few, unwilling people to sacrifice their life and love for the down-trodden, God now calls you and me to be His Face and Presence to such people” [cf. Matt. 9:38]. Are you willing or am I willing to be the compassionate and caring heart, mind, eyes, mouth, tongue, hands and feet of Jesus to the sick and wounded, in our homes, to our family, parish, communities and to the world? Yes, we can be God’s Face and Presence to all peoples. Our problem is we sometimes undermine our abilities, thinking we are not good enough to be God’s disciples or beacons of hope to another.

I am happy to tell you that I see in you a faith that is alive and active, strong and dynamic! I am convinced that if we determine to become witnesses of hope in each other’s life, God would surely count us among his “treasured possession” [Ex. 19:5]. So hurry, do not delay, and do not be too slow to be a part of God’s “treasured possession!”

Just for laughs

One day while he was at the track playing the ponies and all but losing his shirt, Mitch noticed a priest step out onto the track and blessed the forehead of one of the horses lining up for the 4th race. Lo and behold, that horse won the race. As the fifth race horses came to the starting gate, Mitch watched with interest as the priest made a blessing on the forehead of one of the horses. Mitch made a beeline for a betting window and placed a small bet on the horse. The horse the priest had blessed won the race and Mitch won the betting.

Bye and bye, Mitch was elated pulling in some serious money. He knew his wildest dreams were going to come true, so at the last race, Mitch made a quick dash to the ATM, withdrew all his savings, and awaited the priest's blessing that would tell him which horse to bet on. The priest stepped onto the track for the last race and blessed the forehead of a horse. Mitch also observed the priest bless the eyes, ears, and hooves of that horse.

Mitch knew he had a winner and betted every cent he owned on that horse. He then watched dumbfounded as that horse come in dead last. Mitch, in a state of shock, made his way down to the track area where the priest was, confronted the old priest and demanded, “Father, what happened? All day long, you blessed horses and they all won. Then in the last race, the horse you blessed lost by a Kentucky mile. Now, thanks to you Holy Father, I've lost every cent of my savings – all of it!”

The priest nodded with sympathy and said to Mitch, “Son, that's the problem with you Protestants. You can't tell the difference between a simple blessing and Last Rites!”

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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