Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Amos 7:12-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85:9-14
Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 1:3-14
Gospel: According to St. Mark 6:17-13
To classic over-planners, even the normal decisions of everyday life can bring one to the point of semi-paralysis. As one afflicted with this condition, I will plan a family vacation for months – not because planning a family vacation is so complex, but because I always see many forests and have trouble picking out any one tree.
Did you know that there are over 250 hotels in Manhattan? Did you know that more than half of them are in Midtown? Did you realize that in picking one hotel you are, of necessity, not picking all of the others? In knowing that, are you now somewhat afraid to press ENTER as you choose to book a room online?
We have yet to make a family trip to the Big Apple.
That is why this Sunday’s Gospel reading makes my stomach feel like I am at the summit of the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, about to plunge 420 feet without any ability to, as George Jetson might plead to his wife Jane, “Stop this crazy thing!”
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.”
So far; so good. I like the “two by two” stuff – especially with the added bonus of being able to show unclean spirits who’s in charge.
“He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts.”
Now I’m in trouble. Maybe I can use the walking stick to rough up an unclean spirit for his lunch money.
I can imagine that the experience of being in a strange place with no money might frighten some (many? most? all?) people. It sure frightened me. For all of my planning phobias there was one family trip where I forgot to do something that is pretty essential in the wonderful world of identity theft in which we all live: I forgot to tell my credit card company that I was taking my family to France for a week.
Back in the summer of 2008 the Healeys went off to France like the Catholic version of the Griswolds. We were travelling first to Paris, visiting both the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the chapel of the Daughters of Charity (where Our Lady gave the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Labouré), and then by train we went on to Lourdes to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s final appearance to St. Bernadette.
On our first day in Paris I ran out of the 100 or so Euros that were in my wallet and I went to an exchange shop to get more money. The person behind the counter, speaking impeccable English by the way, told me that my credit card was no good. I froze with panic: I was in a foreign country, I did not speak the language, I had no money, and I was responsible for the lives of three other people.
Fortunately, the Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, our son Kevin’s financial institution of choice, was used to the forgetfulness of college students and was not so suspicious of foreign transactions that were a bit out of the ordinary. In the end my panic lasted about two minutes, but it seemed like an eternity.
So as we look at the instructions of Jesus to His disciples we need to see them within the context of what we are told in the second reading. St. Paul actually uses the word “riches” in his message to the Ephesians, and so we are given an insight into why Jesus did what He did when sending out His disciples to spread the Good News.
“In Him we have redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of His grace that He lavished upon us.”
The disciples, despite having no money, carried with them the riches of the grace of God. These grace-filled riches include both redemption and forgiveness. Jesus is basically telling us that He will cover the check in this foreign land even when we have no Euros in our wallets.
Jesus lavished the grace of God upon each of His disciples, and He does so upon each of us every day. Jesus gave them power over unclean spirits, and through His grace we have the ability to control our unclean spirits – even the unclean spirit of wanting to be in total control of our lives.