Fr. Pecchie's Message 07/11/21

Every Christian shares in Christ's mission. When we were baptized, we became members of His body, that same body that reaches out to men and women in every age in order to lead them to God. That's the mission Jesus gave His apostles in today's Gospel: He sent them to reach out to others with Christ's good news of salvation. In fact, the very word "apostle" comes from the Greek word meaning: "to be sent." Every Christian shares in this "apostolate."  Every Christian is sent out to bear witness to Christ, to bring His wisdom and His healing touch to those who are in need, spiritually and physically.

Under the supervision of our bishops (the successors to these first Twelve Apostles), we are all called to spread the Kingdom, to be agents of evangelization. Therefore, the missionary instructions that Christ gives to His first followers apply, in analogous ways, to all His followers, us included. These instructions can be summed up in two words: trust and perseverance.

Besides the clothes on their backs, the Apostles are only supposed to bring a walking stick and their sandals. Every need they have along the way will be met, but it will be met by God's providence, not by their own self-sufficiency: they are to trust in God to sustain their efforts. The walking stick and the sandals symbolize a determination to continue moving forward, to persevere in their efforts to fulfill God's will. They must not give up. Even when they face opposition, persecution, and a cold welcome (which they will - Christ leaves no room for doubt about that), they are not to be deterred; they are to persevere. Trust and perseverance - two key qualities of the Christian missionary (and we are all Christian missionaries, in one way or another) whose relevance will never run out.

The main enemy of trust and perseverance is fear. Fear is to the Christian what kryptonite is to Superman: it saps our strength, so that we can no longer fulfill this mission of being Christ's witnesses in the world. Perhaps what we are most afraid of is what other people will think of us. When we're at a restaurant and the food arrives, we feel self-conscious about saying the blessing: What will everyone think of us? When we're at work and our co-workers are gossiping, making vulgar jokes, or even cooking the books, we are afraid that if we don't join in they will start gossiping about us. When our buddies sneak off to "experiment" with drugs, drinking, and sex, we are afraid that our popularity will suffer unless we go along with them.

This fear of what other people will say about us is a real fear. And God knows that it's hard for us to overcome it. But with His grace we can, as today's Readings show us. In the First Reading, Amos, a chosen prophet, was rejected by the very people that God sent him to. They refused to listen to his prophecy, insulted him, and sent him packing. Yet, he was a true prophet, beloved and chosen by God.

Jesus, when He gives His instructions to the Apostles in today's Gospel, actually tells them how to behave when people reject them - He knows ahead of time that it's going to happen!  God is well aware that faithful Christians will not always receive a warm welcome in this fallen world.  But He calls us to be faithful anyway, to trust and persevere in what is right and good even when it is not popular, because, as today's Psalm reminds us, that's how we will "see God's kindness and experience his salvation."

We have all failed to trust in God at times - that's when we have fallen into sin, given into our selfish tendencies, let our fears override our faith. Today Jesus is inviting us to renew that trust, to make a fresh start, and to reaffirm our commitment to follow Him no matter what. If we accept this invitation, we will give Him more room to work in us and through us, and we will experience His wisdom, joy, courage, and peace more deeply.

There are two steps we need to take in order to do so. First, we have to humbly and sincerely ask God to forgive us for the times we haven't trusted Him. Nothing hurts Him more than when we trust the seductive voice of temptation more than the loving voice of the Lord. He has made it so easy for us to ask His forgiveness: all we have to do is come to the sacrament of confession. God invented confession because He wants to be available to shower His mercy and grace on our needy souls any day, any time. One reason that the Holy Father declared the Year for Priests is because he wants to encourage the whole Church to rediscover this powerful and beautiful sacrament.

The second step to renewing our trust is choosing our friends well - a good Christian friend is like a shield against temptation. Friends are like elevators: they can either take us up toward a better and better friendship with Christ, or take us down toward a life built on self-indulgence, doubts, fears, and the slippery slope of sin. Let us thank Jesus for that, and as we reaffirm our trust in Him, let's ask Him to give us the strength we need to follow Him faithfully every day of our lives, no matter what.


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