July 3, 2016: 14th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily
We have all heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.” If you didn’t pay much money for something, it is probably of poor quality. There is a store in Donaldsonville where that principle doesn’t seem to apply. The store sells name brand items that once cost $25, $50, $100 or more, but now their resale price is 25 cents, 50 cents, or 1 dollar. Whether you spend one dollar or 25 dollars at the store, you get a friendly smile and service from the employees. Customers are greeted with, “Good morning! What are you looking for? How can we help you today?” Sometimes when a customer says, “I don’t have a dollar to buy these items,” an employee will take a dollar out of her purse and purchase it for the customer. When a customer says she is going through a bad time, an employee will hold her hand and pray with her. What’s amazing about this store is that none of the employees are paid. Yet the employees give way more than what’s required of them. People shopping at our Daughters of Charity Thrift Store on St. Vincent Street find more than clothing and household items at a low price. They receive as a bonus the love and compassion of our volunteers from Ascension and St. Francis Churches. Our volunteers are truly disciples of Jesus who bear the peace, healing, and good news of salvation to others. They do their work not for personal gain or honor, but they are simply loving Jesus who comes to them in the disguise of the poor.
Who is a disciple of Jesus, and how does one become a disciple? Does one have to be officially appointed like the seventy-two who were chosen and sent by Jesus? Does one have to preach sermons and drive out demons in order to be a disciple? This line of thinking may lull us into believing that reaping the harvest of Our Lord belongs to a chosen few such as priests, nuns, and missionaries. However, the disciples Jesus chose were not well educated, extraordinary, talented men and women of that time but ordinary men and women who had family and jobs. Even before we were born, we were already chosen to be disciples of Jesus. Let us not confuse membership with discipleship. When we think of ourselves as a member of a group, we think in terms of rights, privileges, and entitlements. As someone said that in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.
What is the difference between discipleship and membership? A member is often asked to simply maintain the minimum requirement to belong to the group such as to pay dues and attend meetings. In contrast a disciple of Jesus is a spiritual apprentice, a work-in-progress, learning a new way of living and being in the kingdom of God.
With our baptism, the transformation by the Holy Spirit began in us; however, being transformed by the Spirit is not a one-time event in our life. We must have the desire to become a better disciple, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through our lives. God nourishes us throughout our lives with His Presence, His Word and Sacraments to transform our hearts to be more like His Son. With each mistake we make, we forge a new commitment through repentance and forgiveness.
As a disciple, we do not desire for worldly attention and praise. St. Paul puts it directly in our Second Reading, “Brothers and sisters: may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No matter what we accomplish, all glory belongs to God. He must increase, and we must decrease. The moment we start to toot our horns, grace received from God disappears like water leaking through the sieve of our cupped hands.
The most important act of the will Jesus asks of a disciple is trust. Despite being aware of our littleness, he asks us to trust that he will provide the grace and strength necessary to overcome difficulties and to accomplish His mission for each of us. One thrift store volunteer told me how difficult it was for her to overcome the death her husband. One day in church, she felt the desire to give of herself to the poor by volunteering at the thrift store. Although she felt her grief made her hesitant, she trusted her inner inspiration. Everyday she began the day with the wisdom of St. Francis which reads, “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received--only what you have given.” Then she ended her prayer with, “Jesus, I trust in You!” This routine gave her the ‘shot-in-the-arm’ necessary to serve Jesus as a willing disciple.
As a disciple of the Lord, we know that we are assured of God’s deep love, and we understand that His love calls us beyond ourselves. Everyday Jesus simply asks us to share with others what we have received from him. He is not asking us to do something extraordinary. Our mission from Jesus for today can be as simple as the simple gestures of kindness that our thrift store volunteers extend to the folks visiting the store. Our Lord will be immensely pleased when we serve Him and others with a desire to be transformed, with humility, and with trust.
-Fr. Paul Yi