Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
July 7, 2016
Hos 11:1-4.8-9, Ps 80, Mt 10:7-15
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- We are now 212 days into the 349-day extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and one of the realities that we can never ponder enough is the mind-blowing extent of the mercy of God for us and for others. The theme of this year is, “Merciful like the Father,” and today through the Prophet Hosea in today’s first reading, we get a direct look at the how rich in mercy (Eph 2:4) God truly is.
- God first describes the infidelity of the people of Israel, how after he had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, rather than keeping his covenant, drawing closer to him, and seeking to become holy as he is holy, they broke his covenant, wandered far from him, and became idolatrous. “The more I called them,” God says through Hosea, “the farther they went from me, sacrificing to the Ba’als and burning incense to idols. … I drew them with … bands of love, I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks, yet, though I stooped down to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.”
- Even though God’s people had repeatedly committed spiritual adultery and it would have been fitting for God to have reacted with righteous indignation, he responded rather with mercy. “My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred,” he tells us today through Hosea. “I will not give vent to my blazing anger. I will not destroy,… for I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you, [and] I will not let the flames consume you.” To symbolize God’s relationship to his people, he had Hosea marry Gomer, a prostitute, to show that God’s will was mercifully to take us back after we had engaged in infidelity with other deities, saying, as the Church heard at daily Mass on Monday, “I will espouse you to me forever … in right and in justice, in love and in mercy. I will espouse you in fidelity and you shall know the Lord” (Hos 2:17-18; 21-22).
- This was the plan of God that was fulfilled when Christ, the Bridegroom, eventually came. As St. Paul described for us in his Letter to the Ephesians, “Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to made her holy, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word so that he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, … that she might be holy and immaculate” (Eph 5:25-27). Despite our sins, Christ not only forgave us, he not only redeemed us by taking us back, but through his merciful love, he changed us, taking our sins away, so that we in the Church might be his holy and immaculate Bride. He continues to do this work of redeeming love through the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation, through the holy bath of his Word and through the one-flesh consummation of our spousal union with him in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
- That’s the power of his mercy and the goal of his mercy. That’s what we are called to receive. That’s also what what we’re called to live, rejoice in and proclaim.
- That brings us to today’s Gospel. The true experience of God’s mercy is not something we can or ought to keep to ourselves. It’s a gift we’ve received that we’re called to announce to others.
- Today in the Gospel, Jesus sends the apostles on their first missionary journey. These would be the ones to whom on Easter Sunday evening he would entrust the power of the Holy Spirit so that just as God the Father had sent him as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, he could send them with God’s authority to forgive and retain sins in his name (see Jn 20:19-23). He was preparing them — and through them, us — to take his mercy to the ends of the earth.
- In this first expedition of evangelization, Jesus didn’t give them a lengthy message, just five words in St. Matthew’s Greek, and seven in our English translation: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” What was far more important than words was for them to incarnate the message of the arrival God’s Kingdom in the living, breathing presence of the long-awaited King. His kingdom, they were to announce in the present tense, is one of liberating truth and loving mercy. As a confirmation of the succinct but staggering heraldic proclamation, Jesus gave them his authority to do the very same things he was carrying out to confirm that the long awaited Messiah had indeed come. He told them, “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.” They were to manifest God’s power over every disease and illness, his power over life and death, his ability to cleanse us of our outer and inner leprosy and all of the alienation associated with it, even his power over the devil.
- But in addition to the proclamation and power, he sent them out with a particular “packaging” for the message and deeds he was sending them to announce and accomplish. He wanted them to show by their behavior that the Kingdom had really come and what life in the kingdom looks like. By their peace, by their mutual love and mercy, by their trust in God’s providence, by their joy, he wanted them to be a living display of life in that kingdom. And that’s why he told them:
- “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” — They were not to be preaching in order to gain but to help others be enriched.
- “Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.” — They were to show that they took seriously what they were declaring, the presence of a God who tells us not to worry about what we are to eat, drink, wear or where we are to sleep, because God knows what we need before we ask for it and cares for us more than he cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the sky (Mt 6:25-30).
- “Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave.” — Jesus wanted them to be grateful for the hospitality given, rather than perpetually looking for a better deal.
- “As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.” — Jesus was telling them not to make prejudgments or hold themselves back to determine first whether a peaceful person lives there, but to be disposed to give his peace to everyone everywhere.
- Finally, “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words, go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” — Jesus wanted them not to be weighed down with bad memories or nurse wounds from one place to the next; if they experienced rejection, he wanted them to let it go rather than carry it to the next place, so that “the good news of great joy” would not be masked by the sadness of a previously negative experience.
- This “packaging” is needed in every age, because the Gospel must authentically be seen before it’s truly heard. People respond to witness far more than words. It’s through seeing our generosity that others will come to the source of all munificence. It’s through our trust in God’s providence that others will be opened to see how ever-reliable God is. It’s through our own peacemaking that others will begin to discern the Prince of Peace. It’s through our resilience that people will see that we’re sowers of an imperishable seed and are undismayed when occasionally we encounter hardened, rocky or thorny soil. It’s through the way we love each other, the way we forgive each other, the way we show the joy of mercy received and given, that others are able to come to the God who has first forgiven us a debt of 10,000 talents and made us capable of paying that wealth forward to all those who owe us by their sins 100 denarii.
- In this Jubilee of Mercy, having received so much love from God who has drawn us with bands of love and espoused himself to us forever despite our infidelities, God is forming us, like Jesus formed the waves of apostles before us stretching back all the way to today’s Gospel, to go out to announce and show that the Kingdom of Heaven is still among us offering others the same mercy, life and joy that God has first given us. It’s by our experience of having been forgiven that, like St. Paul, we are impassioned to become “ambassadors for Christ, God as it were appealing through us,” imploring others “on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).
- And so we need to be very practical in heeding Christ’s call to enter more deeply and fully into kingdom by allowing him, through the successors of the apostles and the waves of priests he continues to call and to send out, to cure in you whatever is spiritually sick, raise whatever is lifeless, cleanse whatever has become leprous or sclerotic and drive out from your mind and heart anywhere the devil and his empty promises have taken dominion. And then to try to bring as many as we can to experience God’s mercy in the same way, so that they may truly experience that the peace and joy of the kingdom of God that has come.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 HOS 11:1-4, 8E-9
When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the farther they went from me,
Sacrificing to the Baals
and burning incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.
Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2AC AND 3B, 15-16
O shepherd of Israel, hearken.
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.
R. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see:
Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted,
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
Alleluia MK 1:15
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 10:7-15
“As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
or sandals, or walking stick.
The laborer deserves his keep.
Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy,
let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—
go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town.”