14th Sunday in OT (July 3, 2016)

14th Sunday in OT (July 3, 2016)

When a young marketer met his untimely end, he was informed that he had a choice about where he would spend his eternity: Heaven or Hell. He was allowed to visit both places, and then make his decision afterwards.  "I'll see Heaven first," said the salesman, and an angel led him through the gates on a private tour. Inside it was very peaceful and serene, and all the people there were playing harps and eating grapes. It looked very nice, but the salesman was not about to make a decision that could very well condemn him to so sedate an eternity.

"Can I see Hell now?" he asked. The angel pointed him to the elevator, and he went down to the basement where he was greeted by one of Satan's loyal followers. For the next half hour, the salesman was led through a tour of what appeared to be the best night clubs he'd ever seen.  People were partying loudly, and having a…well, if you'll forgive the expression, a ‘Hell of a time.’

When the tour ended, he was sent back up where the angel asked him if he had reached a final decision.  "Yes, I have," he replied. "As great as Heaven looks and all, I have to admit that Hell was more of my kind of place. I've decided to spend my eternity down there."

The salesman was sent to hell, where he was immediately thrown into a cave and was chained to a wall, and he was subjected to various tortures. "When I came down here for the tour," he yelled with anger and pain, "I was shown a whole bunch of bars and parties and other great stuff! What happened?!"  The devil replied, "Oh, that! That was just the Marketing Presentation."  

[from http://www.webmarketingezine.com/marketing-jokes/marketing-jokes1.shtml#Explained]

Marketing.  It’s an interesting business.  And even in Church life we recognize a growing need for better marketing, better ways of sharing all of the TRULY great things going on in our parishes and schools.

In the Gospel today, Jesus send out 72 other disciples, but maybe Jesus could have done a better job of “marketing” this, not only for them but also for us here in Huron, Ohio today.  I mean, being sent like lambs among wolves? Carrying no money bag, sack, or even sandals? Maybe not even being welcomed by others?  The “casting out demons” part sounds kinda cool, but come on?  And St. Paul doesn’t necessarily help, talking about the world being “crucified” to him and he to the world, and bearing the marks of Jesus on his body.

But Paul also says, “Peace and mercy be to all who follow.”  And in our 1st Reading, Isaiah says, “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.”  So in the midst of all of the hardships and challenges that can come with following and sharing Christ, there is both peace and power.  And while in our world peace and power are often contradictory, with God, the peace itself is powerful.  It is a peace that comes from the ultimate victory of the Cross.  And it is a peace that can overcome demons: violence and terror, injustice and oppression, fear and hatred, resentment, addiction, our culture of death and its attack on life, consumerism, cynicism, and meaninglessness.  

Yes, missionary discipleship appears to be a daunting task, and it may seem even more challenging knowing that Jesus sends us out as lambs among wolves (a somewhat frightening and dangerous proposition, if you ask me).  But in the end it’s not about us but about the Lord and His power/the power of His name/the power of His grace.  And Jesus does not send us out on our own.  He sent the 72 out in pairs.  Here we can think of the sacrament of marriage—the ultimate being sent out two-by-two as servants of the Lord.  And as the Church as a whole, we gather and then go forth in mutual love and support, as a family of faith, as fellow children of God, as lambs of the same flock with the same Shepherd.  These things are not just nice, cozy images, but are essential in order for us to grow in the Christian life and to help build up the Kingdom of God.  In today’s gospel, Jesus ties the abundant harvesting of all humanity (including the wolves) to the action of those sent out to witness and prepare a place for Him.  God liberates people and expels demons through those laborers who bring life to the Kingdom and God’s peace to the world, in whichever vocation they are called, even if the risk seems great.  

In the midst of all our labor, though, we can also find the peace and joy of God.  We can be comforted and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist here at Mass.  We can rest secure in the arms of the Lord in our times of prayer.  We can see Christ in one another.  In all of this we can realize a cause for rejoicing and gladness, and we can also realize the strength and the power that can come from being a child of God/a lamb in the flock, called to the simple yet monumental task of helping to bring God’s gift of peace and life and salvation to the world, to our communities, to our families.  So let us go on our way.