19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Aug 7, 2022
One day, an Air Force Recruitment Officer came across a pair of identical twins.
He looked at the first young man and asked: “Son, what skills can you bring to the Air Force?”
The young man looks at him and proudly says: “I can pilot!”
The recruiter gets all excited, turns to his aide and says: “Get him in today, all the paper work done, everything, do it!”
The aide hustles the young man off. The recruiter looks at the second young man and asks: “And what skills to you bring to the Air Force?”
The young man says: “I chop wood!”
“Son,” the recruiter replies: “We don’t need wood-choppers in the Air Force. What else do you know how to do?”
“I chop wood!”
“Young man,” huffs the recruiter, “You’re not listening to me, we don’t need wood choppers. This is the 21st century!”
“But,” the young man replies, “You took my brother!”
“Of course I did,” says the recruiter, “He’s a pilot!”
“So what! replies the second twin. I have to chop it, before he can pile it!” (joke from
Yes, even though the second twin didn’t have a lot of skills, he was willing to offer what he did know, if the recruiter just gave him a chance to prove his worth.
The same attitude is being asked of us in today’s gospel. The Lord is asking us to waste no time in putting our gifts and talents at the disposal of his kingdom. He’s asking us to always be on the look-out for whatever needs to be done, to be alert and ready when opportunities do arise, and to be generous enough and creative enough in finding ways to accomplish the task at hand, however long it may take, and however much preparation may be needed to bring it to completion.
We do that first, by being Christocentric in our way of life. That means orienting all aspects of our daily living around Christ and his Gospel. It means never letting sin take our focus off of our calling in Christ. It means being his very presence in this world. It means committing to a daily life of prayer in which we seek to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to us in the daily situations and persons whom we encounter. It means never forgetting our baptismal consecration to Christ and its threefold mandate that we worship and praise God, that we challenge those parts of society and our personal lives that do not live up to the vision of God’s kingdom, and that we strive to be persons who protect, care and nurture all life, from womb to tomb.
Secondly, it means living each day in an eschatological way, as if the end of the world were near and Christ’s return were imminent. Living in the light of the eschaton invites us to reflect on what we’d do, if we knew we only had a week left to live, for example, before Jesus’ second coming. Would we get off of the couch and do what God has been asking us to do? Would we overcome any laziness or lack of motivation on our part to make this world a better place? Would any other behaviors that keep the status quo in our world change? How might our prayer lives change? How might our significant relationships change? With whom would we seek forgiveness and to whom would we offer it? Would we repent of unconfessed sin that we’ve left stewing for quite some time? How might our life priorities change, if we knew that Jesus was coming on the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead and to welcome the elect into his glorious reign as King of the Universe in a week’s time?
Thirdly, we’d have to reflect on how well we use, what we’ve been given, to be a blessing for others. Jesus’ disciples weren’t meant to be bogged down or weighed down with possessions. They weren’t meant to be constantly concerned about what was in their wallets and purses and banks.
They weren’t meant to be stingy with their financial and human resources, but to prayerfully discern where their excess and their blessings could be best spent and then, to generously use them for that purpose or cause.
What Jesus is getting at today, is that our actions must speak louder than our words. If we truly commit to some cause or some idea or some vision, how do we show that commitment, in an honest and sincere way? How do we live as a follower of Christ without holding a sign to tell others we’re a Christian? How do we weave the values of the Kingdom into our every day actions and strive to live by a consistent ethic of life?
That’s what the Indigenous peoples were looking for in the Pope’s recent visit to Canada. They were looking for evidence that actionable change was going to occur, that new relationships would be made, that a greater respect for their cultures and traditions and peoples would take deep root. They were looking for significant action. And the first significant action was that the Pope, in his frailty and advanced age, was willing to personally apologize on behalf of the clergy, sisters, and brothers, for the abuses that occurred in the residential and day schools, by coming to First Nations Land to make that apology. During his 6 day penitential pilgrimage, Pope Francis met with survivors. He spoke their language. He respected their praying and their singing and their dancing. He kissed their hands and received gifts from various Indigenous leaders. He prayed for healing and invited others around the world to do the same.
But all of that was just the beginning. The Pope invited all of us, who live in Canada, from bishops to the people sitting in the pews to be a part of the solution, to commit to the actions proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and to listen and respond to what our Indigenous brothers and sisters need for continued healing and reconciliation to occur.
If we don’t do anything as a church and as a nation after the Pope’s visit, that would be a shame and should call all non-Christians to question the authenticity of our faith.
We need to have the kind of faith that we heard described in our second reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews — faith which is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11: 1) “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. By faith, Abraham stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob who were heirs with him of the same promise.” (Heb 11: 8-9) By faith, Sarah herself, though barren received power to conceive, even though she was too old because she considered him faithful who had promised.” (Heb 11: 11) In each of these instances, Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants put their faith into action. They walked the talk. They were receptive to God’s will and God’s word. They knew God had a plan for their lives and were ready to submit to it. Do we do the same? Would we have had the faith that these ancestors of our faith demonstrated? That’s another reflection the Pope urged us all to make when he met with Indigenous peoples on the feast day of St. Ann, the grandmother of Jesus.
It’s easy to take our faith for granted, and go on our merry way, thinking about how lovely the words were of Pope Francis and how inspiring his message may have been for somebody else. But when we do that, we haven’t understood a thing about faith. Faith has to be personal. It has to matter to my life and to your life every day. It has to be open to allowing God’s Holy Spirit to speak to us and to tell us what we must do to make God matter, to make the Gospel shine upon all, to extend the nets of God’s kingdom ever wider, and to convict us of sin when we fail. When we fail to live by faith, we’re failing in our baptismal consecration to live as followers of Christ 24/7 in this world. Jesus doesn’t want part time followers. He wants all of us— our whole hearts, minds and souls, every moment of every day.
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