Living in Accordance with our Vocation to the Kingdom, 23rd Tuesday (II), September 9, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Peter Claver
September 9, 2014
1 Cor 6:1-11, Ps 149, Lk 6:12-19

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In today’s readings we see several important elements for us to grasp about our Catholic vocation and mission to live in and spread Christ’s kingdom.
  • The first is that our vocation is a direct result of the prayer of the Lord Jesus. We see him at the beginning of the Gospel go up a mountain and spend all night in prayer to his Father. He who is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity was praying all night. What an example about the importance of prayer for us who are not God! Jesus seems to have been praying in discernment about whom he should choose as his apostles and praying in intercession for those whom he was about to choose. We should never forget that Jesus likewise prays for us. He’s ascended into heaven in order to intercede for us. For that reason, we should never really be afraid of living up to the vocation that God has given us, because just as much as Jesus prayed for the apostles, prayed for Peter that his faith may not fail but that after his conversion he would strengthen his brothers (Lk 22), he prayed to the Father for all those who would hear the Gospel through the work of the Apostles (Jn 17), and prays for us still.
  • The second thing we see in this Gospel episode is what he did at dawn. From among his disciples, he selected twelve apostles. It says he “called [them] to himself” and “named [them] Apostles,” another way of saying what St. Mark describes: “he called them to be with him and so that they might be sent out.” We come here face-to-face with the mystery of divine election. God calls us all to him, but among all of us he chooses some for more intensely intimate cooperation with him. Out of all people he chose the Jews; out of all the Jews, some became his disciples; out of all those disciples, 12 became apostles; out of all 12, he chose three (Peter, James and John) to be with him in many of the most pivotal moments of his public life (healing the daughter of Jairus, the Transfiguration, the Agony in the Garden); and out of the three, he chose one, Peter, on whom to build his Church. Likewise we can say that Jesus calls all 7 billion alive today to come to the knowledge of the truth, but only 1 out of 7 is Christian, and we’re part of that 14 percent; out of those, only half are Catholic, and we’re part of that 7 percent; out of those only 1 out of 5 take the faith seriously enough to come to worship each Sunday, so we’re part of that 1 out of 70 or 1.4 percent; and out of those who keep the Third Commandment, we’re part of the 1-2 percent who respond to his invitation to come to daily Mass, so we’re 1 of 3500 or 7000. These facts don’t make us better than anyone else, but we are certainly fortunate. And just as the apostles responded to Jesus’ invitation and left other things to be with him and made themselves available to be sent out on mission, so have we, something that is a response to Jesus’ prayer and doubtless something that gives him great joy. At the same time, however, we remember that Judas himself was called by the Lord after the Lord’s prayer, and after his initial positive response, eventually started to hold back from responding to the point that eventually he would betray him. We need to be aware that the same thing can happen to us.
  • The third thing we see in the Gospel is the way Jesus trained the twelve to carry on his mission. We see that he taught the crowds, he healed them of their diseases and cured them of demonic possession. Everyone, St. Luke tells us, wanted to touch him “because power came forth from him and healed them all.” The mission of the Church is to continue to teach as Jesus’ mystical body, to continue to heal through the sacraments and through charity, and to continue to make it possible for people to touch Jesus and be touched by him. For this to occur, we need to “be with Jesus,” by praying in union with him, by teaching in union with him, and by acting in union with him.
  • This is precisely what the Christians in Corinth had ceased doing, as Paul reminds them forcefully in today’s first reading. He castigates them for bringing suits against each other before civil tribunals and he asks, “How can any one of you with a case against another dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment instead of to the holy ones?” We’ve recently seen the ugly case of the fight over Market Basket between cousins Arthur T. and Arthur S. Demoulas. We’ve also seen many cases in which mothers sue their sons, of daughters suing their parents, of brothers and sisters dragging each other into civil court. All of us instinctively know that the love of God isn’t present in such familial disputes, that the family members aren’t truly living in Christ’s kingdom, when they’re putting, for example, financial concerns or inheritances above their familial bonds and often above God. St. Paul says that it’s supposed to be even stronger among us as spiritual brothers and sisters in the Church and any time Christians were suing each other in civil courts it was a scandal to others since Christ prayed that we would all be one like the members of the Trinity and seek first his kingdom. St. Paul makes two objections. The first is that when there are inevitable disagreements, he wants us to bring it to a mutually agreed upon arbiter with good judgment who can help settle the dispute consistent with Christian faith. “Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough to be able to settle a case between brothers?,” St. Paul asks. The second is that it’s better for us to lose a suit than to lose a spiritual sibling and lose the kingdom. “Why not rather put up with injustice?,” he continues. “Why not rather let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers.” Even if we win the lawsuit, he is saying, we lose. Then he immediately goes out to remind them that the “unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God” and he describes what they were doing as akin to the sins of fornication, idolatry, adultery, prostitution, sodomy, theft, greed, drunkenness and robbery, saying all will exclude us from the kingdom. We can’t be seeking to live in God’s kingdom, St. Paul insists, and at the same time suing each other in civil court as if we were combatants instead of spiritual siblings. These words are just as relevant today as they ever more. St. Paul calls us to a higher standard, the standard of the kingdom, saying that we were once sinners, excluded from the kingdom, but we have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” But we’ve got to live and act in the name of the Lord and in accordance with the Spirit.
  • St. Peter Claver, whom we celebrate today, lived in the kingdom. As a young Jesuit, he left his native Spain in order to go to Cartagena, Colombia, to minister to the African slaves where they would disembark after a brutal trans-Pacific journey, be sold and bought. Their condition was execrable. As our opening prayer reminds us, he became a “slave to the slaves,” and “seeking the things of Jesus Christ” sought to “love [his] neighbor in deeds and in truth.” Rather than insisting on his rights, he became a Good Samaritan to those whose rights were being denied. We can’t be seeking the things of Christ and loving our neighbor in action and in principle if we’re enslaving them. We can’t be seeking the things of Christ and loving our neighbor if we’re taking advantage of them sexually through fornication, adultery, prostitution or sodomy. We can’t be seeking the things of Christ and loving our neighbor if we’re introducing them to false gods through our idolatry or greed or carousing. We can’t be seeking the things of Christ and loving our neighbor if we’re stealing from them. And we can’t be seeking the things of Christ and loving our neighbor if we’re suing them in ways that create scandal for others. St. Peter crisscrossed the ocean to spend the last 44 years of his life as a slave to the slaves, catechizing them by learning their dialects or finding translators, baptizing more than 300,000 of them, sharing their life and doing everything he could to introduce them to the liberation that comes from Christ. That’s what Jesus prayed that he would do. That’s what Jesus called him to do. That’s the work of teaching, healing and touching that Jesus sent him out to do, and three times the population of Fall River came to touch Jesus in faith by his truly Christian life and work alone.
  • Today as we come forward to pray this Mass, we recognize that Jesus is teaching us in the Gospel and through his apostle Paul, that he seeks to heal, wash, sanctify and justify us, that he calls us to himself, that he wants us to touch him on the inside through Holy Communion, and then he wants to send us out not to live a litigious but a liturgical life, transforming our whole existence into the praise of God and the consistent proclamation of his kingdom in “deeds and in truth” so that others may learn from us, as they learned from St. Peter Claver, how to seek the things of Jesus Christ, to love others as Good Samaritans, and to live in accordance with our vocation to the kingdom.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
1 cor 6:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
How can any one of you with a case against another
dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment
instead of to the holy ones?
Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?
If the world is to be judged by you,
are you unqualified for the lowest law courts?
Do you not know that we will judge angels?
Then why not everyday matters?
If, therefore, you have courts for everyday matters,
do you seat as judges people of no standing in the Church?
I say this to shame you.
Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough
to be able to settle a case between brothers?
But rather brother goes to court against brother,
and that before unbelievers?Now indeed then it is, in any case,
a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another.
Why not rather put up with injustice?
Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?
Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers.
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived;
neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers
nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers
will inherit the Kingdom of God.
That is what some of you used to be;
but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and in the Spirit of our God.

Responsorial Psalm
ps 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

R. (see 4) The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Gospel
lk 6:12-19

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground.
A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.
Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him
because power came forth from him and healed them all.