Sunday, July 7, 2013
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 66:10-14c
Galatians 6:14-18
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9

Most of us know very quickly when we are welcome in a place or with a group. Today’s Gospel seems to be speaking about a deeper sort of welcome and the “spiritual” intuition we have when we are in the presence of people who are open to us, to our faith and to our values. It is the spirit of hospitality and welcome, the atmosphere of kindness and gentleness. It is not necessarily friendship but openness to sharing our deepest values.

This openness is a gift and, as Paul says, nothing to boast about. It is, oddly enough, part of the cross of following Jesus. For as surely as we recognize the Church and those who are open to it, we also know when we ought to “shake the dust from our feet” and travel on. Jesus’ instructions about what the disciples should do when they are not welcomed had to be painful for the disciples.

It is painful for us, too. We want others to love Christ as we love him. When he is rejected, we feel rejected. In the end, it is part of the cost of discipleship. As I read today’s Gospel, the words, “If there is a peaceable man there, your peace will rest on him,” seem to hold the key to my struggle with a language that cannot adequately define or explain the feeling of being welcomed.

What I have been trying to name is as intangible and as real as intuition. It is what the Lord asks us to seek when we move through the world and preach the Gospel with our lives. He sends us as a community (“two by two,” the Scripture says) so that we can bring the Church to those who have been prepared to accept it. The first reading speaks about the glory of Jerusalem and the image subtly changes to God who comforts and loves his people. The message in the Book of Isaiah is similar to that in the Gospel. Jerusalem is more than a place in this reading.

What unites the two readings of today’s liturgy is the focus on the presence of God. The presence of the Father among his people is announced by the prophet. The presence of the Risen Christ continues through his disciples wherever and whenever persons gather in the name of the Lord. Today’s liturgy calls us to “be the Church for the Church”— to make our faith visible and transparent so that even those who are unable to name what they see will have the spiritual intuition that will cause them to question what they see and evoke a response of faith.