Sunday, July 04, 2010

14th Sunday - homily

I have been leading a Bible study with about a dozen students at the GW Newman Center this summer. The students and I have been totally into it; it’s been great. We’ve been studying the story of the Bible from the Book of Genesis through the New Testament in an 8 week series. One of the main themes has been trust in God. It’s been fascinating to see the nation of Israel either show their trust in God or not throughout the story….to see a whole nation, a body of people show trust in God. As we celebrate our independence as a country today, we can look at the United States of America and ask, ‘do we trust in God as a country?’ There are some indications that we don’t. Some Americans trust in things other than God: themselves, money, the things of the world, etc. And, a small but powerful minority wants to kick God out of our schools, courts, and public square. But, then, all we need to do to know if we trust in God as a country is look at a dollar bill. On our currency is our national motto: “In God we trust”. We do trust in God! Way to go, U.S.A.!

I don’t want us think of trust in God as just a nice thing to do or something that we should take for granted. You might be thinking, ‘of course we trust in God if we believe in Him’. It can be a great challenge to fully trust in God. And, we shouldn’t overlook the value and significance of trust in God. One of the things that God reveals to us in today’s readings is that when we trust in Him, we receive tremendous power. When we put all of our trust in God, we have power that is stronger than anything in the world.

In the first reading, the Israelites’ trust in God is put to the test. They have just returned from being exiled from Israel for 50 years. They come back to find that their cities, lands, and homes are ruined. They have nothing. They are totally bummed out…totally depressed. Through the prophet Isaiah, God encourages them and invites them to trust in Him. He says that they will prosper and Jerusalem will be a mother to them. They will flourish like the grass. Better days are ahead. One of the key lines is “God’s power will be known to his servants”. At this point, they have nothing; if they trust in God, they will have great power.

This point is brought out in the Gospel. Jesus goes out of his way to say that the 72 disciples he sends out should have nothing: “no money bag, no sack, no sandals”. Again, the underlying point is that all they need is trust in God. And, when they return, they express that they have great power: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us”. They can drive out demons! God gives great power to those who put their trust in Him.

This scene is significant in understanding God’s power being known through his servants who trust in Him. At that time, the Jewish thought was that there were 72 nations in the world. So, Christ sends out 72 disciples which symbolically represents all of the nations. Later, he would really send out disciples to all the nations of the world, including the United States of America. When we look at the mission of the Church over the past 2000 years, we see the power of God made known to and through His servants! The harvest has been the whole world, and the laborers have been those who have fully trusted in Him. God has revealed His power in spreading the message of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth through His servants.

St. Paul helps to name the power we receive when we trust in God: “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”. When we talk about Grace, we talk about a share in God’s life. It is God’s power, strength, love, and life. We primarily receive His Grace through His sacraments. Grace is powerful stuff, especially for those who have little or nothing else!

I would like to end with an example of someone in our modern world who exemplifies full trust in God and the power that goes with it: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. We know the story of Mother Teresa: she fully trusted in God and worked with the poorest of the poor. What a lot of people don’t know is that she and her sisters began every day by participating in Holy Mass. They had Mass way early (like 6 am) before serving the poor. Mother Teresa said that if she didn’t receive the Eucharist every day, she wouldn’t have lasted more than a week doing the work she did. She recognized the power of the Grace of the Eucharist. She had great power every day. This is all based in her trust in God. God invites all of us to share in His power. He invites all of us to fully trust in Him. Through the Grace of this Eucharist, may we as a body of Americans and as individuals live out our national motto: in God we trust.

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