Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 11, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Am 7:12-15 / Ps 85 / Eph 1:3-14 / Mk 6:7-13
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about St. Peter, who, one day was very busy at the gate of Heaven due to the numerous newest arrivals, most of whom were farmers and poor people. As he was about to admit them, he saw a politician in the group. He motioned for the man to step forward, then escorted him inside. As the man entered, a marching band came to meet him, and a red carpet was spread out.
After the grand reception, St. Peter returned to the gate. The farmers and the poor people grumbled, saying, “Even here in Heaven there is discrimination.” St. Peter heard the remark and said, “My friends, there is no discrimination here. We had to give the grandest welcome to that man, because he is the first politician to ever enter Heaven.”
Obviously, Brothers and Sisters, it’s a joke, because we know that there are politicians who are upright and God-fearing, and faithful to their calling of spreading God’s love to other people.
As God’s chosen people, we are sent by God to preach the good news. In our First Reading the prophet Amos was sent by God to preach to the Jews in the Northern Kingdom. It is because, as our Second Reading tells us, God wants His people as one, under the head of Jesus Christ.
That is why in today’s gospel, Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out on their first missionary trip. (Mk 6:7) These disciples witness to the ministry of Jesus and find signs of hope for a successful mission. But at the same time Jesus does not hide from them the reality of Christian ministry. For example, we have witnessed how helpless Jesus is before his town-mates due to their lack of faith. They only see Jesus as the son of a carpenter. That’s why they miss a lot of His golden teachings.
In our time, Brothers and Sisters, the mission to preach the love of God and the reign of God in our life is now up to us. We are now the new disciples of Jesus. The mission remains the same: To proclaim the love of God. Let us listen to these words of Vatican II’s decree on the laity. It says, “… incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, the laity are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself.”
So regardless of what kind of life or profession or occupation you have now, you are sent out to preach, to teach, heal, and witness the good news. In short, you are sent to evangelize.
Today God is looking for Christians who are bright enough to get the message from Him, brave enough to spread it, and honest enough to live it. Let us not hide ourselves, because, no matter how we try to hide ourselves from Him, God sees us and finds us. It is our vocation to preach; that is, to know Christ and to be like Him, and to offer His people the fruits of redemption.
What are the goals of our preaching? Let us remember that, when Jesus preaches, He says these words: “Unless you repent…” When He sends out His disciples, He stresses the need for repentance. (Mk 6:12) Preaching repentance is one of our jobs.
Remember, though, that preaching repentance is not an easy task. There are many who will be offended and won’t like it. But it is not our responsibility to make it acceptable. It is our duty to make it indispensable.
Look at John the Baptist and what happened to him when he preached repentance. When he told the king that what he was doing was immoral – “You are living with the wife of your brother” – he was beheaded. Herodias found a way to kill John the Baptist. Not everyone will like the preaching of repentance.
Remember Thomas More. When King Henry VIII wanted to divorce and remarry, which the Catholic Church does not permit, the king made a decree and asking all of his officials to sign it to allow him to get married. The man at his right hand, Thomas More, refused to sign the decree. His family pleaded with him to sign the decree, because they knew that, if he refused to sign, he would be executed. But Thomas More refused to sign.
Before his execution, Thomas More said to the king, “My lord, I’ve been your faithful servant for many years. But when your law goes against the law of my God, I will follow the law of my God.” And he was executed. That is why Thomas More is the patron saint of statesmen and politicians.
Sometimes, Brothers and Sisters, when we hear of some practices, for example, abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, in-vitro fertilization, and more, we might say, “Oh, don’t talk about it.” Because it is a political issue, you believe you shouldn’t speak about it, as you’ll just get yourself into trouble. As Christians, as the Church, it is the obligation of the Church to speak out on issues both moral and spiritual. That is the job of the Church.
We have to speak out when things involve moral or spiritual issues. That is our job. And where can we find our guide? Our ultimate guide is the Lord. Jesus handed His commandments to His apostles, and those commandments are still valid now. So we cannot say, “Oh, I don’t want to take sides, because I don’t want to be in trouble.”
Let us not forget what Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said: “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”
Very true. He said this a long time ago, but these words remain very true in our time. Sometimes we who know the truth, who know the teachings of the Catholic Church, refuse to speak out, because we just don’t have the conviction; we just don’t have the fire, the passion.
The next question we may ask is, “How do we preach?” Our preaching has to be credible. That’s why there is a beautiful quotation that says, “A good example is the best sermon.” True. We cannot teach our children to be honest when they see us being dishonest. We cannot tell them, “Honesty is a virtue; be honest,” when they see us being dishonest. We cannot tell our children, “Always respect the people in authority; honor your parents,” when we are being disrespectful to people in authority, or we are being disrespectful to our parents.
We cannot tell our kids that kindness is a virtue if we are rude and unkind to others. That’s why our example is the best sermon. Our lives are the best mirrors by which others may see themselves.
Jesus teaches His disciples to obey His commands. That is why we too are called to obey the commandments of Jesus – that we must not put our personal interests and pride above what God wants. If God unites man and woman, we cannot start uniting man and man, or woman and woman. If God allows a couple not to have a child, we should learn to accept God’s will in our lives, and not enter into anything that is against the natural order, such as in-vitro fertilization, or a procedure where they implant a fertilized egg in the woman’s womb.
We should be faithful, always, to the Lord’s commandments, and who is our guide? The people to whom God left His teachings; from Jesus Christ to the Apostles, and to their successors. That should be our guide for moral and spiritual things.
Our gospel says, “Take nothing for the journey but a walking stick.” (Mk 6:8) This doesn’t mean that we should get rid of our cars, or empty our fridge or our closets. Our lives must be simple, so that we do not clutter ourselves with so many material things that we forget our own dependence on God and harden our hearts toward the poor.
Sometimes material things can stop us from being dependent on God. If we rely too much on material things, on our power, or our strength, our intelligence, it prevents us from relying on God’s power. In spreading love to the poor, Mother Teresa said, “I do own things, but they do not own me.”
Mother Teresa used the things that she had in order to love the poor. But sometimes people do it the other way around. Sometimes we try to use people just to earn more. We cheat people just to earn more. We do many evil things just to gain more things in life. And that’s a very sad reality.
The last question we might ask ourselves is, “Why should we preach?” How important is it for us to preach? We preach in order for people to know what is happening today, in the light of the Gospel, of the coming of God’s Kingdom. We preach because we have to interpret the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel, and to spur people to service in the light of the great commandment: To love God and our neighbor.
That’s why it’s very important for us to say something. We cannot be quiet on the immoralities that we see around our community. Even to our children: We cannot prevent ourselves from saying something or reprimanding our children. You might hear some children say, “Oh, I like my dad because he doesn’t reprimand us. He’s always kind to us.” Where will they get their moral guides? They come from the parents.
That is why you who are still young – children – Always remember the Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother. The best way to honor your parents is by being obedient and respectful to them. That’s the best way to honor your parents. Listen to your parents. Your parents are there to guide you; to help you to become better people in the future. If parents will not reprimand or teach their children the right way, how can we expect them to become good Christians one day?
Sometimes we claim, “Oh, I always bring them to church.” But then we wonder, “Why aren’t my children doing what I expected them to do?” But the question is, “Did we teach them when they were young?” Children, do not be upset if you are being disciplined by your parents. It’s for your own good.
Let me end my homily by sharing with you the Prayer of St. Francis. This prayer expresses how we can preach the gospel in our daily lives by example.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.