THE GOLDEN YEARS

FATHER ROGER'S REFLECTIONS

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

THE PROPHET’S JOURNEY
"Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two (Gospel).

 

Whenever you travel, and especially if you are not a frequent traveler, you might ask the popular question that most people going on a journey might ask: what should I pack, how much should I bring and what must I make sure not to forget?

 

As for most of us, Jesus sends his disciples out for an unmarked journey, a journey where they would proclaim the prophetic message of Jesus, namely, that we are children of the Father.  Jesus counsels the disciples to bring no check-in baggage: travel light! To inquisitive travelers-to-be, Jesus advises: take only a walking stick, travel in pairs and should anyone not accept you, shake the dust from your feet and go to another town to preach.

Whenever you travel, and especially if you are not a frequent traveler, you might ask the popular question that most people going on a journey might ask: what should I pack, how much should I bring and what must I make sure not to forget?

As for most of us, Jesus sends his disciples out for an unmarked journey, a journey where they would proclaim the prophetic message of Jesus, namely, that we are children of the Father. Jesus counsels the disciples to bring no check-in baggage: travel light! To inquisitive travelers-to-be, Jesus advises: take only a walking stick, travel in pairs and should anyone not accept you, shake the dust from your feet and go to another town to preach. Unfortunately the message had not yet reached Fr. Joel and I when we moved into Oakhurst with van and trucks.

“Take only a walking stick” and whatever you are wearing. Sometime back I had made mention that the reason why you got two priests for the price of one is that after my retirement from pastoring, I had desired to be another pastor’s walking stick: he would hold me up and I would help him not to fall. Jesus does not send us into the world without help. However, the walking stick or cane he offers us is very much like the new inventions called the Hurry Canes. They stand up by themselves, balancing on three rubber pads and bending to accommodate any step up or down.

The one walking stick we need stands by himself: it is Jesus, who stands on the strength of the Blessed Trinity and bends to our human needs. We must always rely on him and never on ourselves alone. It is not good for a person to distance himself from his cane less he should fall when he needs it most.

How do we stay close to Jesus? It is necessary to have a daily resource of prayer, sacramental grace, spiritual reading, faith study and a real effort to carry out our daily tasks in union with and in service to God. From our youth, we like to show that we can do things by ourselves. We need no one to help us and we can prove that very easily until we goof and then have to pick ourselves up to eat our share of humble pie. It is only with time that we begin to see just how much we need the support of Christ in our lives. In our younger years we can become cocky, but time wears on us and shows us just how much we need the lasting support of the one who sends us. People jump from one thing to another, one church to another, one faith to another only to find that what they really need is right there by their side, the support of Christ calling them to a closer relationship with and dependency on him.

On the other hand, we sometimes put too much weight on our cane and weaken ourselves by not using our own strength in coordination with the walking stick. We lean too much on Jesus when we fail to cooperate with his grace and follow his direction. We fail to trust in his grace and the strength that he gives us to carry on through the difficult moments of our lives. Sometimes we must stop demanding so much from the Lord and begin doing something that shows our willingness to do our share in service. Jesus is not our walking stick to lead us to nowhere. He has a destiny in mind and we must make that destiny ours as well.

Secondly, Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs. In every church where I was assigned as Pastor, the community was being cut down from two priests to one. That was a forerunner of today’s struggle when one priest becomes pastor of two, three and four churches. We cannot live our faith and ministry all by ourselves. “It is not good for man to be alone”, the scriptures say. There was a time when we applied these words primarily to married people. But the statement remains true for all of us. That is why we need community, that is why we gather to worship and to carry out more difficult ministries in the community. We also need one another to discern what is the will and the call of God: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”

In one of my parishes, the pastoral council worked only through discernment. If anyone disagreed on anything, we would discuss the issue, pray over it and take a vote for consensus. This approach would continue until we found total agreement. Dialogue, mutual sharing of vision and common efforts to reach a given goal is the way we strengthen one another and support each other. When we abstract ourselves from community we also walk away from our destiny. As disciples of Jesus, united in faith, we need to share our gifts with one another so that all may benefit from the good of each one.

In turn it is necessary therefore for each of us to affirm, encourage, assist and trust one another in our journey. What Jesus is saying is that no one must be allowed to go the journey on his or her own. Families need parents and parents need their children. The Church needs the Pope and the Pope needs the Bishops who in turn need their priests who need to be there for the people, a people who support and walk with their pastors. Communities must take on mutual responsibility and rely on each other to carry out the important tasks of service to mankind.

Finally, Jesus says that if they are not accepted in any place, the disciples should shake the dust from their feet and move on. We need to recognize that we will fail at times. Sometimes we will not be able to carry the specific task at hand. But we cannot allow failure to disable us. To cease moving because of failure is to allow the dust to accumulate in our personal integrity and bring about disease and breakdown in our mission. We have to learn to shake off the dust and move on to the next task, the next place. Our failures are sometimes simple messages giving us signs of where we are to look for our next mission in our life’s journey. Failure is not necessarily and end, but sometimes a simple guidepost leading us on to something else, another opportunity to share our talent and prophetic call.

So we have our mission, we have been granted our walking stick, our faith companions and a call to carry on. Let us not fail the mission to which Jesus sends us: trust in his support and listen for it; count on your fellow travelers and assist them; do not get discouraged but keep the prophetic message alive.

As I finished contemplating these thoughts, there was a knock at the door and two Jehovah witnesses were inviting me to a Bible convention in Bakersfield. As we blessed each other and I closed the door I remembered our last words: “to listen, to teach and to live the Word of God”, isn’t that what it’s all about, I thought of all of you. Do the same: two for the price of one. Share the walk of Jesus and find the same destiny.

 

  

 

“Take only a walking stick” and whatever you are wearing.  Sometime back I had made mention that the reason why you got two priests for the price of one is that after my retirement from pastoring, I had desired to be another pastor’s walking stick: he would hold  me up and I would help  him not to fall. Jesus does not send us into the world without help. However, the walking stick or cane he offers us is very much like the new inventions called the Hurry Canes.  They stand up by themselves, balancing on three rubber pads and bending to accommodate any step up or down.

 

The one walking stick we need stands by himself: it is Jesus, who stands on the strength of the Blessed Trinity and bends to our human needs.  We must always rely on him and never on ourselves alone.  It is not good for a person to distance himself from his cane less he should fall when he needs it most.  

 

How do we stay close to Jesus? It is necessary to have a daily resource of prayer, sacramental grace, spiritual reading, faith study and a real effort to carry out our daily tasks in union with and in service to God.  From our youth, we like to show that we can do things by ourselves.  We need no one to help us and we can prove that very easily until we goof and then have to pick ourselves up to eat our share of humble pie. It is only with time that we begin to see just how much we need the support of Christ in our lives.  In our younger years we can become cocky, but time wears on us and shows us just how much we need the lasting support of the one who sends us.  People jump from one thing to another, one church to another, one faith to another only to find that what they really need is right there by their side, the support of Christ calling them to a closer relationship with and dependency on him.

 

On the other hand, we sometimes put too much weight on our cane and weaken ourselves by not using our own strength in coordination with the walking stick. We lean too much on Jesus when we fail to cooperate with his grace and follow his direction.  We fail to trust in his grace and the strength that he gives us to carry on through the difficult moments of our lives.  Sometimes we must stop demanding so much from the Lord and begin doing something that shows our willingness to do our share in service.  Jesus is not our walking stick to lead us to nowhere.  He has a destiny in mind and we must make that destiny ours as well.  

Secondly, Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs. In every church where I was assigned as Pastor, the community was being cut down from two priests to one. That was a forerunner of today’s struggle when one priest becomes pastor of two, three and four churches.  We cannot live our faith and ministry all by ourselves.  “It is not good for man to be alone”, the scriptures say.  There was a time when we applied these words primarily to married people.  But the statement remains true for all of us.  That is why we need community, that is why we gather to worship and to carry out more difficult ministries in the community.  We also need one another to discern what is the will and the call of God: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”

 

In one of my parishes, the pastoral council worked only through discernment. If anyone disagreed on anything, we would discuss the issue, pray over it and take a vote for consensus.  This approach would continue until we found total agreement.  Dialogue, mutual sharing of vision and common efforts to reach a given goal is the way we strengthen one another and support each other. When we abstract ourselves from community we also walk away from our destiny. As disciples of Jesus, united in faith, we need to share our gifts with one another so that all may benefit from the good of each one.

 

In turn it is necessary therefore for each of us to affirm, encourage, assist and trust one another in our journey.  What Jesus is saying is that no one must be allowed to go the journey on his or her own. Families need parents and parents need their children.  The Church needs the Pope and the Pope needs the Bishops who in turn need their priests who need to be there for the people, a people who support and walk with their pastors. Communities  must take on mutual responsibility and rely on each other to carry out the important tasks of service to mankind.

 

Finally, Jesus says that if they are not accepted in any place, the disciples should shake the dust from their feet and move on.  We need to recognize that we will fail at times.  Sometimes we will not be able to carry the specific task at hand. But we cannot allow failure to disable us. To cease moving because of failure is to allow the dust to accumulate in our personal integrity and bring about disease and breakdown in our mission.  We have to learn to shake off the dust and move on to the next task, the next place.  Our failures are sometimes simple messages giving us signs of where we are to look for our next mission in our life’s journey. Failure is not necessarily and end, but sometimes a simple guidepost leading us on to something else, another opportunity to share our talent and prophetic call.  

 

So we have our mission, we have been granted our walking stick, our faith companions and a call to carry on. Let us not fail the mission to which Jesus sends us: trust in his support and listen for it; count on your fellow travelers and assist them; do not get discouraged but keep the prophetic message alive.

 

As I finished contemplating these thoughts, there was a knock at the door and two Jehovah witnesses were inviting me to a Bible convention in Bakersfield.  As we blessed each other and I closed the door I remembered our last words: “to listen, to teach and to live the Word of God”, isn’t that what it’s all about, I thought of all of you. Do the same: two for the price of one. Share the walk of Jesus and find the same destiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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