Sunday Sermon for June 18, 2023, the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Ex 19:2-6a; Rom 5:6-11; Mt 9:36-10:8

In the Gospel reading today, our Lord sends His twelve Apostles out to preach, but He tells them to go only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  They were not to go into any of the gentile territories.  We could certainly speculate about the reasons for this decision, but it really comes down to the fact that the people of Israel were called from among the entire population of the world to be God’s people, a holy people.  Because they were chosen by God to be His own, it only makes sense that if God was going to do something in the world, it would begin with the people of Israel.

That said, the people of Israel bear tragic witness to the weakness that afflicts us as human beings.  As we read in the first reading, God told the people through Moses that He had chosen them.  He freed them from slavery in Egypt and now He tells them they will be His own special possession if only they will keep His covenant.  They were to be dearer to God than any other people; they were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

We know what happened to the people of Israel again and again.  They were continually unfaithful to the covenant God made with them.  They rejected God but they did not reject the gods.  They were more interested in the things of earth than they were in the things of heaven.  God sent them judges, prophets, and others to call the people back.  They would return for a bit, then go off and do even worse than they had been doing previously.

After all this, God sent His own Son to reconcile the world to Himself.  No one on earth would have understood this better than the Jewish people because of their belief in God, their status as the Chosen People, and the instructions they had received through the Prophets and from the Sacred Scriptures.  So, it makes sense that if God wanted to reconcile the world to Himself, the best place to start was with the people whom He had chosen, the people who were in the best position to respond, and the people who could be an example for the rest of humanity.

We know that there were some true lights among the Jewish people who did respond to God’s call, but we also know there were many who seemed uninterested.  They did not want to be bothered, they did not want to leave their worldliness behind, and even worse, they did not want to reject all their false gods in order to serve the one True God.

We know that there was a greater response to God’s generosity from the Gentiles.  They had been looking from the outside at the privileged position of the Jews, and now they had an opportunity not only to be the people of God, but to be the children of God.  When they heard of God’s love for them and the sacrifice of His only Son for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, many pagans responded joyfully to God’s invitation, only to see their descendants follow the same pattern as the people God had originally chosen.

Now, after giving us His own Son, His Son’s Mother, two thousand years of Saints, and the fullness of truth, we find ourselves in what may be the most dire and unfortunate time in history.  People who profess to believe in God are far more interested in money, fashion, materialism, and selfishness than they are in God.  Even worse, we are watching as people and corporations are not merely turning away from God and toward false gods, but turning to the enemy of our souls, to Satan himself.

We see people reveling in some of the most unfortunate sins and trying to force their debauchery on everyone else.  It is not unusual that people who do wrong try to destroy the innocence of others, but what is most despicable about our present situation is that they are working to destroy children, the most innocent of all.

We are called to be holy, to be God’s children, to reject what is contrary to God and to the truth and morality He has revealed.  We must all make a choice, a truly radical choice, for the Lord.  There is no middle ground; there can be no compromise with evil.  Our Lord proved His love for us by dying for us when we were sinners, now we have an opportunity to prove our love for Him by dying to everything that is repugnant to Him, embracing our faith, and living our lives for Him.  Everything God has promised is ours if only we will be true to His Covenant: Jesus!

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