Sunday, July 3, 2016

God Used Them Anyway...

14 Sun OT Yr C/2016
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville

Can you imagine how cool it would have actually been sent by the Lord to prepare His way? Imagine – being given a real stake in Jesus' mission like that! How amazing…and at the same time, how frightening! After all, Jesus said they would be like fluffy, gentle, trusting little lambs in a sea of ferocious, devious wolves. The seventy-two had to have had some of the best stories of all the first followers of Christ – sent out two-by two – adventuring, questing – and just imagine the things they saw – even demons that had to follow their commands! No wonder they came back rejoicing… Wow!

But…even in all of that – in all of the amazing adventures they experienced – somehow they missed the boat. When they start telling all their amazing stories, Jesus rebukes them because they seem to have missed what was most important.

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Yes, the seventy-two missed the boat. They return rejoicing - they're excited - they come running, right up to Jesus almost giddy with excitement: "Lord - it’s amazing - it was so incredible! You're name is so powerful that even the demons had to do what we told them!" But Jesus is clear: "You don't get it," He says. "Of COURSE the demons have to obey your command - I've given you power over them. But that's not what this is about at all - don't rejoice because they obey you - they obey you because your name is written down in heaven!” They missed the point, you see. Their power, the success of their mission, wasn't what was important - what mattered was that their eternal salvation had been taken care of. THAT'S something worth rejoicing about.

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Little Katherine seemed like a natural baby-sitter. She would always gather her baby dolls together and be concerned to take care of them. As she grew, she would play school with them, she'd feed them, she'd tuck them in bed at night. It was no surprise, then, when young Katherine came bouncing up to Mom and Dad the evening after her first real babysitting gig. Her cheeks were glowing as she plopped down in the chair, counting her dollar bills. Grinning ear to ear, she looked up at Mom and Dad and said, "Babysitting is SO COOL!!! I just LOVE IT!!! I mean, they have to listen to me and do everything I tell them to, and if they don't do it, I put them in time out and they're in trouble when their parents come home."

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Katherine might have been a very good baby-sitter - the children might have enjoyed having her watch them, and I'm sure they were safe and kept from getting into trouble. But Katherine kind of missed the boat, didn't she? Baby sitting is about being a protector, being trusted and acting responsibly - it’s not really about making other people obey you, is it? Just like Katherine, the seventy-two completely missed the boat...

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...they missed the boat, but God was able to use them anyway! Isn't that something? They were as confused about what was really going on as young Katherine, but God used them to spread the good news anyway. Katherine and the seventy-two aren't the only ones, are they? If you're anything like me, you miss the boat every day of the week and twice on Sundays. But that doesn’t excuse us from playing our part in the kingdom of God. He seems to always find a way to use us even when we miss the board, doesn’t He?

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Saints Peter and Paul have always been among my favorite biblical people, because both of them seemed to mess up at least as much as they got it right. St. Peter was always raising his hand, putting his foot in his mouth, clamoring to answer first – occasionally he got it right, but just as often (at least early on) he totally whiffed. Three steps on the water than, splash, flailing and drowning. “Get the behind me Satan…” – Peter got it so wrong one day that he earned that reproach. And St. Paul – well, the first half of his story, he was hell bent on killing anyone who even looked remotely like a Christian. But, Jesus used them anyway…

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We don't always have the heart and mind of God - we're not always good at picking out the right motives or noticing what is most important. Like the seventy-two, we sometimes miss the boat. But the good news is that just as God used them anyway, as long as we are willing to keep working at the task He's given us, God can use us, too.

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Friends, I’m already so grateful for who you are, how you seem to love and care for one another, and how wonderfully you seem to welcome the stranger among you. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to journey with you on this Great Adventure of discipleship and mission and ministry. Unfortunately, I have to admit something that is perhaps disappointing and disheartening right up front – I’m absolutely certain that I’ll mess it up from time to time. I’ll miss the boat, I’ll make mistakes, I’ll frustrate you and even worse, I’m certain that I’ll disappoint you. And I’m so sorry for that.

Maybe that makes this Gospel perfect for the beginning of our journey together – because, as certain as I am that I’ll miss the boat from time to time just like the 72, I promise that I won’t ever give up, that I’ll continue working with all my heart at the ministry that God has given us. And I hope you’ll make the same commitment – that no matter how badly I miss the boat, you’ll continue working with all your heart at the ministry that God has given us. Because just as God used the 72 no matter how badly they missed the boat, if we remain committed to the work He’s entrusted to us – the work of loving each other and building each other up, the work of spreading the Gospel in our neighborhoods and the town square, the work of introducing others to Jesus Christ – if we remain committed to this work that He’s entrusted to us, then God will use us, too.

Friends – we are being sent. We are being sent from this place just like the seventy-two were sent. It is not a coincidence that we end Mass every time by receiving the instruction to GO. Everything we do throughout the Mass leads to that command – everything we do at Mass empowers you to accomplish that mission. As you go this week, remember that we all sometimes miss the boat, but that God will always continue to use us if we just keep working at the tasks He has given us.

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