I’d like to share a few reflections from a comedian named Steven Wright. He says,
“Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.”
“The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.”
“What happens if you get scared half to death -- twice?”
“Cross country skiing is great, if you live in a small country.”
Today I’d like to share with you three reflections, and one quote.
1) First of all, did today’s gospel make you feel uneasy? I think it makes many of us feel uneasy because, as the years go by, we seem to acquire a lot of stuff. We have stuff all over our house. When we have too much, we move some of it to the garage. Eventually, we throw it out. There is a fine line between “garage” and “garbage.” Steven Wright said it this way, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”
In our gospel today Jesus tells his disciples and us to travel light. Don’t get weighed down. When I used to go off to preach a parish mission, I would take a suitcase full of clothes, shoes, toothpaste, shaving cream, and of course my sermon notes, books, and some fresh fruit. Some missionaries take their ipads, laptops, ebook readers, and all that. Yes, times have changed, and life is more complicated.
The message for us today is:
Don’t let material things get in the way of what is
Yes, if necessary, even forget the shoes, computers, and the food. Wherever we go, we must take along the most important stuff.
Take along the spirit of forgiveness. Forgiveness identifies us as a follower of Christ. We forgive because that’s what Jesus did on the cross.
Take along the spirit of generosity. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read how the early Christians made sure no one among them was in need. They shared their goods. It just made sense to them.
Take along unconditional love. No bigotry, no bullying. In God’s heart, there is everyone. In a Christian’s heart, there should be everyone.
Take along a good supply of the right words. Our words are living expressions that identify who we are. If we speak truthful words, encouraging words, blessing words, and words of compassion, -- these weigh nothing and can be carried to everyone wherever we go.
So, following Jesus means always taking along the right stuff. If we take along forgiveness, generosity, love, and the right words, others will soon realize that, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Luke 10:9).
2) Secondly, when we die and come before the gates of heaven, I suspect the Lord God will ask us to show him our good deeds, our kind acts, and all the prayers we have said. Hopefully, we will have lots of these. But then I see him asking us for one more thing. I suspect God will ask us, “Where are your scars?”
St. Paul says in our second reading, “I bear the marks of Jesus on my body”(Galatians 6:17). We know that Jesus was scourged, crowned with thorns, and crucified. His body was marked with scars.
St. Paul was imprisoned, scourged, and hit with stones. He must have had scars.
St. Peter was crucified upside down. He certainly had scars.
Some saints had the stigmata, scars in their hands.
St. Joan of Arc. She was burned at the stake. She was totally scared.
Police and fire personnel who die defending others… they have scars. Where are our scars?
Scars need not be physical.
-- If we blow the whistle on injustice we may lose our job. That’s a scar.
-- If we speak the truth, we may be ridiculed. That’s a scar.
-- If we defend the sanctity of life, we may be insulted. That’s a scar.
-- If we practice our faith, we may be mocked. That’s a scar.
Remember, Jesus said, “I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). Get ready for scars. Then we can confidently bring them with us when we meet our Maker.
3) Thirdly, we are all accustomed to hearing masculine images for God. However, today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah offers us a maternal description of God.
Isaiah speaks of God nurturing and comforting the people. In chapter 42, Isaiah speaks of God as giving birth to the people. In chapter 49, he pictures God as a mother who will never forget her child. Today, in chapter 66, the prophet has God saying, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).
We call the earth that God created, “Mother Earth,” because it nourishes us and sustains our physical life.
We call the Church that Jesus founded, “Mother Church.” It nourishes and sustains our inner life, especially through the sacraments. At its best, the Church comforts us, imparts wisdom, and lavishes love, like a good mother.
So our readings today challenge us…
-- to rethink all the material stuff in our lives,
-- to rejoice in our scars,
-- and to open ourselves up to the nurturing nature of God.
4) Finally, since we just celebrated the 4thof July, I'd like to conclude with these words from Ben Franklin:
“God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of people may pervade all nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say, ‘This is my country’.”