14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 3, 2022
Bill walks into his boss’s office one day and says, “Sir, I’ll be straight with you,
I know the economy isn’t great, but I’ve got three companies after me, and I’d like to respectfully ask for a raise.”
After a few minutes of haggling. The boss finally agrees to give Bill a 5% raise, and Bill happily gets up to leave.
“By the way,’ asks the boss, ‘which three companies are after you?”
Bill replies, “The electric company, the water company, and the cell phone company.”
Yes, Bill wanted to work for his company and found a creative way to do it!
In our scriptures for today, we’re invited to continue to reflect on what it takes to be a laborer for the Kingdom.
The first criterion Jesus presents is that Laborers for the Kingdom don’t work alone or in isolation to others. In his own lifetime on earth, Jesus had his twelve disciples and his extended disciples that would be with him wherever he went and would be there to support him in his ministry. So it’s not surprising then, that when Jesus appoints the seventy disciples, he sends them forth in pairs to spread the Good News. He wanted them to have minimally, one other person to help support them in their evangelization ministry. In our own Christian vocation, we have to avoid the temptation of going it alone and not accepting the support of the Christian community. One of the reasons we gather for public worship every week is specifically to gain the support and the prayers of other like-minded disciples of Christ who are in the same location as ourselves and to offer the same kind of support and prayer that we’re being offered in return.
Jesus also challenges his disciples to never get too comfortable where they may happen to be.
As missionaries, they’re to be constantly on the move to the next city and town, to the next group of people, to the next challenge and opportunity that lays ahead. Being on the move keeps disciples from collecting too many things, as well, and it helps disciples to always keep mindful that the Kingdom of God is in constant need of expansion. For us today, being on the move means never being content with the number of people that are present at mass, always seeking to invite more people to join us, always finding newer, creative ways to make the Gospel come alive to a new generation, always striving to go where the other may happen to be and to meet them on their terms.
Linked to being always on the move is the challenge to be adaptable to different people and different circumstances, always with an eye on ministering to those whom others have left abandoned or whom others have judged as unworthy of their time and attention. Indeed, Jesus says, “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” (Lk 10: 3-4) For Jesus’ disciples today, being adaptable means becoming culturally sensitive and respectful of differences. It means acknowledging that we’re all on a spiritual journey and may be at different points. It means being ready to translate the gospel in different ways to different people and to allowing God’s grace to guide us to say the right words, in the right way, at the right time.
Being a laborer for the Kingdom also means getting to know others on a more personal basis by being willing to receive hospitality from another. In the Ancient Near East, to refuse to offer a traveller hospitality was a great sin. And the same is true even today! Many of us may fall into a similar trap today by being more comfortable giving hospitality to another than receiving it. We’ve been taught to serve others and may find it difficult when another asks to serve us.
And yet being the recipient of another’s hospitality is part and parcel of being a laborer for the Kingdom. Being willing to enter another’s home and to eat with them whatever is offered is a great way of getting to know the family of the house and to speak with another about meaningful topics. It’s a great way to remove barriers of misunderstanding too, and to build bridges of trust and honesty. It is such relationships that Jesus himself fostered whenever he accepted the invitation to go to someone’s home for a meal.
Our first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah reminds laborers for the Kingdom that the earthly Jerusalem is meant to hearken all the people of God to embrace God’s vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem which will never end. —-A kingdom marked by God’s Justice, mercy and peace. A kingdom permeated by God’s love, joy and happiness. —A kingdom of equals whose members willingly accept God’s sovereignty in their lives 24/7. It’s a perfect place in which all God’s disciples would live together in harmony forever.
Translated, the word Jerusalem means, “City of Peace,” and Isaiah personifies the city as a woman in whom the laborer— her beloved— rejoices and is consoled in moments of trial, and who also provides comfort, rest and peace from one’s labors. Disciples hold Jerusalem so dear that they’re able to nurse at her consoling breasts and to drink with delight from her glorious bosom! (Isa 66: 11) Yes, allowing the vision of Jerusalem to be personified enabled the laborers for the Kingdom to keep the vision of God’s kingdom alive in their minds and hearts and in their own daily living. It would help to give them the courage they’d need, from time to time, to continue turning God’s vision of Jerusalem into reality on earth until the definitive establishment of the Kingdom by Christ, at his second coming.
Along these same lines, Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us that “a new creation is everything.” (Gal 6:15)
That new creation is brought about by embracing God’s vision of a world of justice and peace, of love, mercy and generosity toward others, of equality and kindness toward all, irrespective of one’s differences. Striving toward that new creation will necessarily put us into conflict with some who will prefer the bad news to prevail over the good news, for sin to prevail over grace, for hatred and division to be triumphant over understanding and love. In those instances, laborers for the Kingdom must be willing to suffer as Jesus did and to spiritually “carry the marks of Jesus branded” on our bodies (Gal 6:17) as we continue to witness to the new creation in everything that we say and do.
Christians need not fear when such situations present themselves, for indeed, they inevitably will in a world infested by sin. Instead, laborers for the Kingdom should take comfort in Jesus’ own words when he says: “I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.” (Lk 10: 19) And while such authority to put evil in its place might sound like a prideful stance, Jesus asks us not to focus on the power we’ve been given, but instead, to rest in the confident assurance that our names are written in heaven! (Lk 10: 20) Yes, a laborer for the Kingdom has the assurance of eternal life, for they’ve make their faith genuine by living it out day by day, in difficult and easy moments, always striving to imitate the love and mercy and compassion of Christ at every step of the way. May we take this opportunity today, then, to re-commit ourselves to being laborers for the Kingdom and to cooperating with God’s grace in bringing God’s kingdom, God’s vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem, to earth with each passing day, until it is finally realized by Christ.
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