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Bringing About the Realm of God

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Yesterday, I mentioned to someone that I was going on a trip to the Dominican Republic. Before I was able to explain that it was a mission trip, she responded with the same warning she had been given, “Don’t leave the resort!” Next week, I will be traveling with five of my brother diaconal candidates to visit La Sagrada Familia, the sister parish of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We will be staying in exactly the place where tourists are told not to go. Mission is bringing about the realm of
God, especially to those places our society tells us not to go. It is a commitment to transform our world into the world that God wants for each of us, even when it feels uncomfortable. We are called through our baptism to live as Jesus lived and
become the instruments through which God works to make mission possible. Each of us has been chosen to bring love, hope, reconciliation, and healing to all people, especially to those on the margins, just as Jesus did in his day.

In hear in the Gospel, that many of Jesus’ disciples returned to their former ways of life and no longer accompanied Him because what He was teaching made them uncomfortable. Right now, I too am feeling uncomfortable about my upcoming trip. However I have chosen, like Peter and the Apostles, to stay with Jesus on mission. Please pray for our Dominican brothers and sisters, and for me, and all those who go on mission. 

Witness for or against God

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I have an intense internal drive for justice. I have always been someone who strives to see justice done in all things and for all people. And when I witness or hear about acts of injustice, I am filled what a deep sense of outrage.

This visceral drive for justice is what helps me witness to the Jesus who flips tables in the temple court and chastises the religious authorities for their hypocrisy. It makes me a strong witness for our God who is a God of justice. But when left unchecked or not filtered through God’s lens of mercy and charity, this drive for justice can also make me a counter-witness. In my flippancy or antagonistic turn-of-phrase, I can end up turning people away from Christ, rather than toward Him.

The first reading for today speaks to this very idea of being a witness for or a witness against God. In who we are and how we behave as Christians, we have the power to draw people closer to God, to foster a desire in them to know Christ, or we can turn them off entirely. We can be shepherds who scatter the sheep, or we can be united to Christ our Shepherd who draws all sheep safely to himself.

As we continue growing in intentional discipleship as a parish, it is as important to talk about the ways we serve as counter-witnesses as it is to discuss the ways we positively witness to Christ. For so many people, the reason they have strayed from the Church or refuse to consider joining is less about Her teachings and more about Her members. So this week, I challenge all of us to spend some time pondering these questions: How am I positively witnessing to Christ in the world? How might I be, in word or deed, acting as a counter witness and turning people away from Him?

Trust in the Mission

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Living in the age we do, with all its technology and modern convenience, Jesus’ summoning the twelve, at least for me, is a little hard to swallow. It’s hardly the alluring advertisement for evangelization and disciple-making candidates! No food, no money, just a walking stick and sandals! Not even a second shirt! But if you dig a bit deeper, you hear that “Jesus gave them authority…” Read: Jesus gave them the tools they needed. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the first disciples—fishermen, tax collectors—all ordinary folks. We are all called to be disciple-makers. What the gospel tells us is in order to become that, we need to divest ourselves of what keeps us from sharing the Good News. When we do that, the Lord equips us with what we need, just like Amos, again an ordinary person—a shepherd and arborist—who the Lord sent forward to ministry. And just like the apostles, God meets us where we are, gives us the tools we need, and sends us to be his hands and feet and voice. “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet, but yours.” (Teresa of Avila) As we walk with our walking stick and sandals, let us pay particular attention to how we can be Christ visible in the world. How will we let the Lord meet us where we are? Where will we be his hands, his feet, his eyes, his compassion in the world?

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