Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Dec. 6 for the building dedication at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends 72 disciples on a hike. They will be visiting a lot of towns and will be camping along the way.
Unlike us hikers today who plan carefully in order not to forget something we need, Jesus tells them to leave behind their money, their backpack and their sandals — God will provide everything they need.
Unlike us who enjoy the camaraderie of other hikers, Jesus says, “Greet no one along the way.” Their hike is not for recreation, it’s to proclaim a message, a message that will not always be well received.
This is the first time in the Gospels that Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the Good News that “the kingdom of God is at hand.”
The first thing they were to say upon entering someone’s home was “Peace to this household.” And yet they were often treated with hostility. Why was this? And for that matter, why does the Church continue to face hostility from our secular, materialistic society today?
n One reason is that Jesus calls us to live according to a higher law that rejects what those who live like pagans today are doing.
Regardless of what they say, most people’s actions show that they expect to find security in the things of this world and happiness in living however we want — yet this willfulness only leaves us feeling even more insecure than before, because the conscience that God planted in us will not allow us to find true peace so long as we persist in living what we know deep in our hearts to be a lie.
And this applies not only to the truths of sexual morality but also to the social teaching of the Church, be it on immigration, economic justice or human rights, and medical moral truths — abortion, euthanasia, you name it and you’ll face opposition. He says we will sometimes feel like “lambs among wolves.”
n Another reason people reject us is our message that God is the master of our destiny and our possessions — not us: “He has the whole world in his hands.”
Meaning that while we can and should plan for the future, none of us has any real control over that future — it’s all ultimately in his hands. And one day we will have to give an accounting for what we have done with the many gifts God has given us. Have we used them to help others?
In today’s Gospel Jesus sends his disciples out with no money bag, no sack and no sandals to teach them that we can trust God to provide us a means to meet our needs.
We also learn that we are to be the means by which the needs of others are met — after all, they’ll be depending on the kindness of others. And isn’t that the witness of St. Nicholas, whose feast we celebrate today? Do you know his story? His generosity saved three young ladies from being sold into a terrible life of slavery.
Today we will be dedicating a new building for your parish, a building with offices and meeting rooms which are intended to assist you in doing the work of the Lord here in this very large and very diverse parish. The Lord has blessed you in many ways and the growth of your community is a cause for great rejoicing.
But these buildings are just buildings; what is important is what will go on inside these buildings — all the ways in which you continue the mission of the 72 in today’s Gospel.
I’m not saying that those who enter this building should leave behind their money, their backpack and their shoes, but I am saying that everything you do here should in one way or another serve to proclaim the Good News that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” and just as we see in our Gospel, even when our message is countercultural, the first words spoken here should always be words of peace.
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