14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:1-2, 17-20
This Sunday, July 4, 1776, is the greatest of American holidays, recalling the day in Philadelphia when the founders declared the independence from Britain of what was to be the United States of America. It is more than a memorial about the structure of government. It celebrates personal freedom, and beyond, that human dignity.
As was the case with Father’s Day, the Liturgy of the Word was prepared for the Universal Church, although few parishes this weekend will ignore Independence Day.
Nevertheless, in the liturgy, the first reading is from the third section of Isaiah. The three sections of this book, so favored over the years by pious Jews as well as devout Christians, saw a great sweep of Hebrew history, from before the Babylonian conquest, through the exile of many Jews to Babylon, the imperial capital, and finally to the Jews’ return to their ancestral home.
The return was bittersweet. Poverty and despair stalked the land. Cynicism, at best, must have been everywhere. Where was God in all this? The prophet majestically reassured the people that if they are faithful, God will sustain them.
The Epistle to the Galatians provides the next reading. In it proclaims Jesus to be the Lord and the Christ. (Christ is not a name but a title. It means the select of God, chosen to be the Redeemer.)
Also, the epistle makes the strong point that God’s love is for all.
St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Already Jesus is making plans to announce the Good News far and wide. The crucifixion and Resurrection have not yet occurred, but the Lord even now is arranging for all people to be reconciled with God and to find God’s peace and life. Jesus sends 72 disciples, in pairs, to distant places. All is in God’s plan. All are in God’s love.
Jesus instructs the disciples to carry no provisions. God will provide for them. They must focus their intentions upon their holy mission of representing Jesus, not upon their earthly needs.
The Lord also warns that many will not accept these delegates from God. Those who rebuke God cannot be coerced to do otherwise. This is their freedom, but also their ignorance. Nevertheless, those who turn away from God and spurn God’s redemption bring doom upon themselves, not as divine revenge, but as simple consequence.
Signing the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, has come to represent the great statement in this society that human freedom is essential for, and integral to, every person. However, human freedom does not mean license. Indeed, our system, evolved from the events of July 4, 1776, cherish laws to protect rights as well as liberties.
Putting all this in balance means respect one for another. It also assumes that each person has reason and potentially strength.
This is fully within the historic Catholic concept of human nature and of the identity of each person. No world tradition eclipses the Catholic respect for the individual person. No theology the Catholic belief in the worth, and potential, of each person.
Respecting another, and realizing personal potential, in the moral sense, is the chore. Original sin has made us all nearsighted and insecure. We are limited, nearsighted and afraid, in spiritual matters as well as other considerations.
As a spiritual consideration, God has not abandoned us to our plight. He enters our lives and our world. How? He gave us Jesus, so wonderfully extolled by Paul.
In a word, we need God. We find God in Jesus. If we set our sights on God, as persons or as a nation, we will overcome our nearsightedness and fear and truly reach our potential, of building a society worthy of humans, and of finding eternal life ourselves.
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