As I mentioned at the beginning of mass, today is Mission Sunday. I want to do a couple of things – comment on the scriptures, talk about Mission Sunday and invite us to think about how our celebration of the mass is impacted by scripture and our lived experience.
In our first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we hear how God is going to use a pagan King to help restore the People of Israel. This would have been a shock to the people of Israel. How could God use a pagan, an unbeliever to help restore the Kingdom? This would have been a shock and lots of people would have been really mad that God was using a pagan to help his chosen people, to lead them home.
In Matthew’s gospel, the Pharisees are speaking from both sides of their mouth. They build Jesus up as a person of integrity and then they try to trap him so that he will be in trouble with the authorities and with the common people. They are not successful. In a word, Jesus reminds them, you do not have to pit God against the world. We need to learn to live together – to honor and respect each other.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks of his gratitude for all that they have done, for all that they are. Paul acknowledges and expresses his gratitude for the relationship they have with Jesus and how they let their relationship influence their daily life.
This is Mission Sunday – we are invited to think about how we proclaim the Good News – that God loves us – all of us, wherever we are and however we are. We are invited to live our lives in such a way that this message is communicated to all people. Every time we gather here for mass, it is our work to welcome people – to spread the news that God loves us. We are called to share this message with people who are connected to our Church and we are invited to share this message with people who have as yet little or no knowledge of God.
As Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate – our religious community has been founded to share the Good News of Jesus with all people – especially the poor and those who are on the margins of society. Our origins are in the South of France.
The Oblates came to Canada in 1841 and we shared the gospel with countless people – we helped to build parish communities and along with sisters from various communities we helped to establish schools, hospitals, cooperatives and various organizations that ended up having a positive impact on people. Some of our initiatives – like the residential schools we worked in, have also caused long lasting pain – decimating Indigenous people – individuals, communities and cultural traditions. While some people flourished in the Schools, many people suffered and the effects are still being felt today. Today our work in Indigenous communities is about celebrating the rites of the Church. It is also about finding ways to bring healing to lives that have been damaged by the effort to assimilate the Indigenous populations of Canada.
Today, we Oblates are old and we are few in number. We have not walked away from Indigenous people and the struggles they experience. With new awareness, a desire to learn from our mistakes, a desire to work together we are working towards a time of healing and new life. With sorrow and regret, with hope and determination we look forward to a new day where the goodness of each person and each culture will be acknowledged, respected and celebrated.
Our Oblate community does not work only in Canada. In fact, we minister in over 60 countries. OMI Lacombe Canada, the Oblate province that I belong to has members working in the far north, in British Columbia, the Prairie Provinces and Ontario. We also have members working in the United States, in Peru and in Kenya. While we are few in number we are working with local lay leaders to help build up the Church. St. Eugene challenged us to help people become human, Christians and Saints! Our resources continue to be directed to address very basic human needs, housing, health, education and the building up of faith communities so that lives are transformed. If you would like to help us with our work there is information in the bulletin which will help you to become a partner in our work.
Why did I and so many other men join the Oblates? Why have we done what we have done? Why, now that we are old do we continue to reach out to others?
In our lives we know Jesus – the Crucified Lord. We know about suffering. In our lives we know Jesus – the Risen Lord. We know about new life, blessing and joy. We want others to know what we know. We want to make a difference. Our God loves us.
Every time we come here to celebrate the Eucharist we are reminded that God loves us.
Every time we come here to celebrate the Eucharist we are reminded of our dignity as children of God. The Word of God reminds us of who we are. When others dismiss us, discount us, marginalize us, God says, “Wait a minute, you are mine! You are precious! I love you with an everlasting love and I am with you until the end of time!”
Every time we come here to the Church we are reminded that we are being sent. At the end of mass, we are not invited to sit around and pray – we are invited to go out into the world. We are to take what God has given us and we are to share this good news, this new life, with the world.
We don’t come here to celebrate how good we are. We come here because we know we need a change of heart. We come here because we know we can do better. We come here to let God help us – to be encouraged and supported.
Coming here Sunday after Sunday our lives are slowly changed. We become more and more like Jesus Christ – the one who invites us, the one who claims us as his own, the one we listen to, the one who teaches us, the one who feeds us and the one who sends us.
The Word of God and the Body of Christ are powerful but they are not magic. When God feeds us, we need to do something with the food offered. We need to let people see that we are trying to become more and more like Christ. It takes effort and it takes commitment. Every day that we draw breath is an opportunity to become more and more like Christ.
This week I invite you to think about the following:
I am a disciple of Jesus. I have taken part in the Mass. I have spent an hour in prayer. What difference will this prayer make in my life? How will people know that Jesus changes me? This week, what will I do to help people know the God who loves them?
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI