I think this guest homily by my pastor, Fr. Jeff Grant, is an excellent example of drawing practical lessons from the Sunday lectionary readings.
Be a missionary
Once there was a young seminarian studying to be a missionary. Early one morning at three am the rector called him out of his sleep to come to his office. The young man rose, got dressed, and hurried over to the priest’s office. There he waited until eight am when the superior finally arrived.
“Let’s begin,” he said. “Please spell for me the word dog.”
“D-O-G,” the young man responded.
“Good!” said the rector. “Now, add two plus two.”
“Four” he answered.
“That is correct,” said the priest. “You have met the requirements for being a missionary. I will be happy to recommend you.”
The following day the board met and the rector spoke highly of the young seminarian. “First, I tested him for selflessness. I called him to my office at three am and he came without a word of complaint. Secondly, I tested him for patience. I made him wait five hours. When I arrived he was still there and did not ask an explanation. Finally I tested him for humility, asking him questions any child could answer. He did not take offense. I believe he has the qualities necessary to be an excellent missionary.”
Although the superior’s test may seem rather simplistic, the point is clear. He knew what he was looking for. He knew what it would take to succeed … and perhaps to our surprise the qualities he was looking for didn’t come with years of study, but years of practice. The qualities were marks of character—not something you learn from a book.
Jesus is looking for missionaries
In the Gospel today, Jesus is also looking for missionaries … people he can send out to proclaim the Gospel. And like the superior in the story, the qualities Jesus was looking for were not to be learned from a book. Jesus told his disciples that when you go out, don’t take extra food, clothing, or money. In other words, the first quality needed was that they were to trust God for everything. If you are to be believed, you must live by your belief.
Secondly they were to be selfless. Jesus said you can wear sandals, but not shoes. Foot protection was necessary for travelers in Jesus’ day, but shoes were sign of wealth and his missionaries were not to put their personal comfort over the needs of others.
Number three was to be humble. When you come to a place that welcomes you, stay there. Don’t keep looking to move up. Your greatness isn’t measured by your surroundings. And finally he told them to be patient. If they don’t accept you, don’t get mad and don’t get even. Just move on.
Yet, we are not missionaries, are we? Not many of us will go to Asia, or Africa, or Latin America. So what does this have to do with us?
You can be a missionary
Perhaps we are the most important kind of missionary, for we are the ones sent out to our families and neighborhoods. We are the ones who take the Gospel to work with us each day or to school, and if the message of the Gospel is to be credible, we must live to make it so. If we call others to repent, we must also be willing to change our lives. If we proclaim forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive. If we teach that God is generous, then we must be generous. If we say God is the one on high, then we must be humble before others.
For Jesus called his disciples to be missionaries. Go forth and bring the Good News. It is not simply about how much you know as it is about how you live. Trust God … be selfless … be humble … and be patient. When you bring the Gospel in this way, not only will it be heard … it will be believed. May God bless you!
– Fr. Jeff Grant, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Springfield, IL (July 12, 2015).