Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy 4th of July: citizens of 2 worlds

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C 2016:
Jesus sends out the disciples to carry out his own mission in the world.  But, notice something really important from the beginning of the story.  It says he sends out, not just the 12 apostles, but he sends out 72 other disciples.  He tells them to say “peace be with you” to each of the houses they visit.  He tells them to cure the sick and to proclaim the gospel: the kingdom of God is at hand.  In other words, he tells these disciples: go and be like me, share the good news, bring comfort to the afflicted, teach people about the truth of God’s word.
I see in this story a powerful reminder that all of us are called to continue the saving work of Christ by living our faith out loud in the world around us.  Our faith in Christ cannot remain simply a private matter that we do in the comfort of our homes or our churches.  Jesus sends us out into a world that really needs us. 
Speaking of the world, I always get a little patriotic this time of year.  I really love the 4th of July.  And, for the last 5 years, I have spent July in Washington DC, studying canon law.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to be done with that degree!  What a relief!  But, I will miss being in DC for the 4th of July.  It’s hard to get more patriotic than that: being in our Nation’s capital city on the celebration of our nation’s birthday is pretty special.  The fireworks, the monuments, it’s a pretty special thing.  The 4th of July always reminds me of the privilege it is to be an American.  We are blessed to live in a country like this. 
But, we are also living in a strange time.  We love our country.  But, there is also a lot of unrest.  Many people are quite dissatisfied with the state of our country.  I know this by watching the political process unfold, and I also know this just by my conversations with you.  Many people feel lost or powerless as the country seems to be changing before our eyes.  If that’s you, my question is: what are you going to do about it?
So, on this 4th of July I want everyone to think and pray about America.  One of the true marvels of our democratic system of government is that we have a voice.  We have a responsibility to engage in the public square.  We have opportunities to participate in the governance of our nation when we vote, when we keep up with the issues, when we contact our representatives.  But, we also have opportunities to engage in the culture, to express our views to others, to engage in dialogue, and to win the hearts of our brothers and sisters in this nation.  We have this responsibility as citizens of this great nation.  But, we also have this responsibility as disciples of Jesus.  He sends us out into the world.  We are lambs amongst wolves sometimes.  But, we are still called to share this good news with the world. 
Frequently, this is becoming more and more difficult.  We live in an age of individualism and relativism.  Pope Benedict called it the dictatorship of relativism, where our ability to share the truth is hampered because it doesn’t fit into our modern culture.  Pope Benedict called us to resist this dictatorship, to be bold in our sharing of the lasting truth of Christ with the world who needs it so bad. 
How to do this?  Let me give you three concrete suggestions.  Remember that when we were baptized we were anointed with Chrism and the priest/deacon said: just as Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.  We share that anointing; we share that mission.  So, think about priest, prophet, and king.
First, priest.  The priestly mission of Christ is aimed at making the world holy.  So, pray for our world and for our nation.  If you feel things are bad, and you wish things could change, pray about them.  We should pray for our nation every day.  We should fast, do little sacrifices for the good of our world.  Every week give yourself some concrete homework assignment, pray for peace, fast for an end to abortion, offer mass for the unemployed, etc.
Second, prophet.  Get informed on concrete issues so that you can share the truth with the world.  How many of you feel like you could come up here and give us all a presentation on some hot-button issue: contraception, gay marriage, euthanasia?  Probably not too many.  But, many times we will be challenged whether at work, at school, in line as we are waiting to pick up our kids.  How informed are you?  Read, study, learn.  We can’t be prophets if we don’t have a good message to tell.
Third, King.  Make sure to put our words into action.  Exercise this ministry by voting your conscience, by engaging in the public dialogue, by expressing your concerns to public officials.  If we believe in Jesus, if we think he can lead us to happiness in this life and in the life to come, shouldn’t we share that with the world?  Our faith should have an impact in our whole lives, not just in private, but also in public.

This is the 4th of July weekend.  We live in a great nation.  I’m proud to be an American.  But, as the Dwenger motto goes, we are also citizens of 2 worlds.  We are also disciples of Christ.  I’m proud to be an American, but as Jesus says, rejoice because your names are written in heaven.  Don’t be afraid to share your faith.  More than ever, our nation needs the goodness, compassion, and truth of Christ.  The harvest is great and the laborers are few.  The Lord wants to send us into the world to bring his good news, how will we respond?

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