B Cycle – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
Every parish has a mission statement which is typically posted on their web site and their Sunday bulletin for all to read. The mission statement is the guiding principle designed to keep its staff focused on accomplishing that mission and to inform the parishioners where they are being led. This is important for everyone to know, particularly on Good Shepherd Sunday.
Yet, the staff members responsible for carrying out that mission typically perform their duties without ever considering how or if their program is aimed at achieving the mission. In fact, most staff members, if asked, cannot tell you what the mission statement is or how what they do will accomplish that mission. Therefore, they will schedule a bible study, a small group discussion, a program on some theological principle, serve the poor, and schedule social activities all because those are good things to do.
The voice of the shepherd has always been clear, he came to reconcile us to the father. He was the one sacrifice for the atonement of our sins and by his death the barrier between ourselves and God has been removed. That my brothers and sisters, calls for a response from us beyond just faithfully showing up and attending programs. Christ came for a purpose, and it is the mission of the Church to proclaim that mission clearly and consistently. We are to receive that message and respond just as the disciples did when they chose to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus was their response to his invitation. Do you wonder what that meant to them during those first days and months of walking with him? Did you ever wonder if they changed their minds later after years of listening, watching, and responding to his questions? I invite you to think about how the concept of following Jesus is part of your spiritual journey into the heart of God.
Experience tells us most Catholics are unaware of the desire of God to move us to a place where we do more than faithfully come into his presence, faithfully attend programs, and faithfully respond to the needs of others. The mission of Christ was to open our eyes to see and to experience the depth of God’s love for us. This means the mission of every parish is to open our hearts to the transforming power of Christ motivating us to discover our destiny as sons and daughters of God.
It is not about programs for they are just tools to be used to help us respond to the challenge to begin a journey that is not very clear but is filled with the certain knowledge that Christ is with us. If you think about it the disciples in last week’s gospel had experienced that uncertainty as they went out and healed the sick, cast out demons and proclaimed the kingdom of God had begun on earth. Now in today’s gospel, Jesus wants to take them away from the crowds to a deserted place. Alone with Christ they could digest what they just did and come to a deeper understanding of who He was and what they would become. But unfortunately, before they got to that deserted place, the crowds were waiting for them,
This desire of Jesus to talk to them should be a reminder of the critical nature of the scriptures are for our spiritual growth. It is in the scriptures those lessons of discipleship are taught to us. They help us grasp the requirements of a disciple and the mission of God to restore what we lost by the sin of Adam. There is another lesson in that scene for us and it is how easily we can be drawn away from spending time listening to Jesus.
But that is another topic, let me stay with the mission of the disciples because in this brief story we can easily see ourselves. I am certain the disciples, after casting our demons and healing the sick, were of a state of mind that they were ready to move on to ministering with Jesus rather than continuing their formation as disciples. They had tapped into the power of God and were prepared for they knew Jesus gave them authority.
Who needs more education in the ways of God beyond what they just experiences? That my brothers and sisters is a picture of us. We live our faith as if we have reached a place where we are aware of God’s presence, where we are comfortable. Because of that belief, we know he is with us, and we just need to keep doing what we are doing.
It is at that this point in our spiritual journey, the real mission of transforming hearts by Jesus begins because he will challenge them to do the impossible and they fail to respond. The scriptures from this point on to Pentecost show us how they will continue to fail, continue to not understand, and yet have moments of clarity. Next week’s gospel will show us how they failed (if you want to know just read Mark 6:37) but for now let us stay with why we should never become complacent in our spiritual journey for that is at the heart of today’s gospel.
Our growth as believes is to a continual and constant transforming of our hearts and in our understanding of the mission to proclaim the kingdom of God. Christ will always challenge to go deeper, to trust more and to act when common sense tells us what we are to do is impossible. Our response is to expect to be surprised by God and to trust in the power of God given to us as believers. The mission of the Church and for us is simple: reveal the person of Jesus and to embrace with open hearts the desire of God to change us.