Ave Maria Catholic Church, Parker, CO
Isaiah 66, 10-14 + Psalm 66 + Galatians 6, 14-18 + Luke 10, 1-12, 17-20
About three years ago I went down to Haiti to visit an orphanage that the parish where I served was helping to support. Even though I was only going to stay for five days, I packed very carefully. I knew about the terrain, so I took extra shoes: simple ones for the flight, easy to slip on and slip off through security, and two other pairs for walking on that rocky, dusty terrain. I counted out my meds carefully, taking a few extras in case I dropped any while removing the child-proof caps that only children can open. I packed some energy bars, and then I presented myself to the Oklahoma State Department of Health and spent an enormous amount of money being inoculated for every known bacteria, bug, bite, sting, and virus known to man in the long history of medical science. I felt like a pin cushion but confident that Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F & G, Tetanus, Malaria, and Papa Doc’s Revenge, and even the common cold had been conquered. I carried much more than the peace of Luke’s Gospel. In comfort I flew to Port Au Prince arriving at the International Airport, and then after a frightening taxi ride which simply drove me around to the other end of the runway, I boarded a small plane for the short flight over the mountains to the other side of the island. I should have known that an adventure was beginning when I noticed that there was no door to the “flight deck” as some would call it. The pilot simply leaned back and turned to shout directions to us never thanking us for choosing that airline. I suppose it was because we didn’t have a choice. Once the eight of us were on board, the pilot shouted that we were overweight. I was ready to volunteer to walk, but before I could raise my hand, they began to throw luggage off the plane onto the runway. The second piece of luggage to hit the ground was mine. After about six more pieces, the engines started and we flew off to Les Cayes. I had nothing. No shoes, no meds, no shirts, sandals, not even a walking stick. Believe me, there was no chance I was going to move from house to house. When I got to that orphanage, I stayed put. They promised to send my luggage on the next flight, but they failed to tell me that the flights only go to Les Cayes every three days!
So I wonder, who is going to bear witness to the joy and mystery of our redemption: the likes of me, so prone to place my trust in what I can pack and haul around rather than in God? Or will it be a traveler so light and unburdened that all around will be amazed and imagine how wonderful it is to rely on a God who, as today’s Prophet suggests, would carry us in her arms and fondle us in her lap as a mother comforts her child.
In this Year of Faith when all the church is called by our Holy Father to a time of new evangelization, perhaps we might better evangelize the world by our trust, our simplicity, and the light-weight way we travel through this life unburdened by the baggage of anger and revenge, bitterness and grudges we will not surrender. All that stuff really does make us over-weight and it keeps us from being free as God made us: free to trust, free to go where He sends us, and free to carry one another burdens. In the presence of disciples like these, the kingdom draws near.
This kind of life is one of joy, and as the story goes, those who have given it a try return rejoicing. Their joy is not the consequence of what they have done, suggests Jesus to them, but rather the consequence of what they have become: true citizens of the Kingdom whose names are written in heaven. They do not return with some solemn sense of having fulfilled a weighty obligation, some duty they have been assigned. They come back full of joy because they have cooperated with God in lessening the destructiveness of life. I think this joy is the inner energy of handing on the mission, the excitement that comes from sharing something wonderful, life-giving, and unique.
A wise Egyptian poet, musician and artist living in the first half of the 20th century wrote these words:
I slept and dreamt life was joy.
I awoke and saw life was service.
I acted and behold service was joy.
One of the wonderful things about our faith built upon the Living Word of God is that we can sometimes sit with it and imagine wonderful things. Imagine that Jesus Christ, lover of the earth, was filled with this joy when he smiled and whispered in the ears of the people who would continue his revelation until the end of time, “Your names are written in heaven.”
Because you are here in prayer, in praise, and in thanksgiving; because you have come back to this church after a full week in the world of work, study, and play, you are those people he has sent. The world must be a little better and know Christ a little more because you were there, so be confident that your names are written in heaven.