Sunday Sermon for July 3, 2022, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Is 66:10-14c; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:10-12, 17-20
The readings today remind us of the basic teaching that we need to keep our focus on the goal. So often we get ourselves worked up about so many things. We are overwhelmed with the problems of life and the obligations and responsibilities that are laid upon our shoulders. Sometimes we find ourselves getting caught up in foolish or trivial things that take up much time and, sometimes, a lot of mental, physical, or emotional energy. More to the point, we find ourselves feeling crushed under the weight of the spiritual oppression or purification God allows us to undergo.
Any of these things can cause a fair amount of struggle and can cause us to lose our focus. When this happens, we tend to focus on our own self and on the difficulties we are facing. The mind often races and pulls us further down into our own misery. If we allow this to continue for very long it will result in a loss of peace and, eventually, a loss of hope.
In the first reading we hear the instruction given to the people of Israel as they returned from a seventy-year exile. God instructed them when they went into Babylon regarding how they were to live among these pagan people and, especially, how they were to maintain their faith. In other words, they were brought into exile, but they were to live in the hope of returning one day to their own land. On the surface it seemed impossible, but for those with faith, they knew all things are possible for God. If the Lord makes a promise, He will fulfill the promise.
As the people returned to Jerusalem, God’s promise was fulfilled. However, Jerusalem was in ruins, the Temple had been destroyed, and the people would probably have felt very downcast. In the midst of this sadness, God tells the people to rejoice over Jerusalem, He speaks of the prosperity Jerusalem will experience and the wealth of the nations being brought to Jerusalem. Finally, the Lord tells the people that they will find their comfort in Jerusalem. In the immediate, none of these things was even a remote reality, but God made the promise, and He gave the people hope as there was now something to which they could look forward.
In the second reading, St. Paul speaks of boasting only in the Cross of the Lord Jesus through which he had been crucified to the world and the world had been crucified to him. Think about what this meant for St. Paul. After the many years of trials he endured and having proved his fidelity to the Lord in those trials, the desired effect of the trials had now reached its culmination. There was no longer anything in this world that could bring St. Paul down. Having been crucified with Christ, he could now live with Christ while he awaited the day when he would be taken from this world into Heaven.
In the Gospel we hear about the return of the disciples after our Lord had sent them out to the towns He was planning to visit. When the disciples returned, they rejoiced in all that had happened, but they seemed especially amazed that the demons were subject to them in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Our Lord told them He had given them power to tread upon the full force of the enemy, but they were not to rejoice so much in this as in the fact that their names were written in Heaven.
So, right now we are in an exile of sorts because we are citizens of Heaven but we are presently on earth. In the exile, we are being tested and purified, but these things are not ends in themselves, they are the means by which we will be able to unite ourselves with God. The Lord has given us His grace and all His wonderful promises which, as we know, He will fulfill perfectly in and for us.
However, neither the exile, the tests and purifications, or even knowing the power we possess in the Lord are what is important. They may be necessary for us, but they are all means to something infinitely greater: eternal life in Heaven. Heaven is the goal for which we strive and on which we must keep our focus.
In this vale of tears we are going to experience many painful things, but this is to help us be detached from (or crucified to) the things of this world. These problems can cause us to turn our focus inward, however, our Lord’s promise of eternal life gives us hope to look beyond ourselves and look to Heaven. This is what our lives are really about, so keep your focus on the goal!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.