YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus summoned the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. So they went off and drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:7; 12-13)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Some 10 years ago, now retired Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Oregon, delivered these words of commissioning at the ordination of several Holy Cross priests at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame Campus. I share his words with you as they speak of what Jesus has asked of every full-hearted Christian, not just the vowed and ordained.
“The story is told of an African boy who listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas Day. She told the youngster, ‘The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for one another.’ And so when Christmas came, the boy brought the teacher a beautiful seashell. She asked him, ‘Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?’ The boy told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. It was a place several miles away and the teacher was quite amazed. She said, ‘Why, it is gorgeous, beautiful, but you should not have gone all that way to get such a gift for me.’ The little boy’s eyes brightened and he said, ‘Long walk part of gift.’
“That is the way it was with Jesus. And so it must be with you. The Son of God came from heaven to a manger, from a manger to a cross, from a cross to a grave, and from a grave back to heaven. People ask, ‘Why all this trouble?’ And God says, ‘Long walk part of gift.’ “You too must walk the way the people walk, experiencing the fullness of life, the joys and the sorrows, the friendship and the alienation, the dying and the rising. Your long walk with the people you are called to serve will be a big part of your gift.
“I heard about a young student who came up to a priest full of excitement at her discovery of Buddhism and her desire to convert. The priest said, ‘Well, what would you think of a religion that said that God became everything that we are, so that we might become everything that God is?’ She thought it was a fantastic idea. She asked, ‘What is this marvelous religion?’ And the priest said, ‘Christianity!’
“Yes, that is the good news about our God that you are called to proclaim, by word, by deed and by your very person. The long walk, like that of Jesus, has already led you to embrace this conviction about faith in Jesus Christ.”
Today’s gospel passage recounts the first sending out of disciples to continue the work of Jesus. St. Mark writes, “Jesus summoned the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. So they went off and drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:7; 12-13) And surely was it a long, long walk for those first twelve as they journeyed from town to town continuing the work of the Savior.
So will it be for us who take our commitment to Christ as seriously as did the first disciples. We will walk with others even when our feet hurt and our hearts ache. We will walk with those possessed by the unclean spirits of our day, those who are demon-driven by a culture that sometimes seems doomed. We will walk with the sick in body, in mind and at heart. Our feet will hurt, our hearts will ache. But we’ll remember the words of that small African boy: “Long walk part of gift.”