|Stay on Script and Don't Make It about You.
The Fourteenth Wednesday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of Saint Maria Goretti, Virgin & Martyr.*
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Hosea 10: 1-3, 7-8, 12.
• Psalm 105: 2-7.
• Matthew 10: 1-7.
Seventh Wednesday after Pentecost.
Lessons from the dominica,** according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Romans 6: 19-23.
• Psalm 33: 12, 6.
• Matthew 7: 15-21.
The Seventh Wednesday after Pentecost; and, the Feast of Our Venerable Father Sisoes the Great.***
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Corinthians 10: 12-22.
• Matthew 16: 20-24.
10:20 AM 7/6/2016 — On Sunday, we read, from Saint Luke's Gospel, of our Lord sending out seventy-two of his disciples on a mission to preach the kingdom of God. He gives them some rudimentary instructions as to how to conduct themselves, then launches them to all the cities and towns that He intends to visit to do reconnaissance for Him before He arrives. And you will, I'm sure, recall that this happens at a time early in our Lord's public ministry, before He has chosen from among these disciples the twelve that will become His apostles. We noticed, further, that these seventy-two—most of them, anyway—didn't have a clue about what Jesus was all about, as evidenced by their completely naïve display of exultation upon their return, not recognizing that the preaching is only a prologue to our Blessed Lord's real purpose on earth, which is to die and so redeem mankind; hence, the brief fast-forward I gave you to chapter six of John's Gospel in which some of these disciples begin to drift away as soon as our Lord begins to reference He true purpose.
Now, all of a sudden, Saint Matthew, in today's lesson, mentions twelve, and the word “apostle” appears in the Gospel for the first time. He even mentions by name the twelve who have been chosen. Nothing is said about why or how they were chosen, but I tend to think that the mission of the seventy-two from Sunday's Gospel lesson had something to do with it. Recall, if you will, what some of the seventy-two say to our Lord upon their return: “Lord, they said, even the devils are made subject to us through thy name” (Luke 10: 17 Knox). Our Lord, of course, is quick to point out that whatever it is they think they've done has been done by God, not by them, and I would not be a bit surprised that the twelve who are chosen at the opening of today's lesson from Matthew are chosen precisely because they recognized this from the beginning.
Notice, if you will, the subtle difference in the instructions He gives to the twelve in sending them out to preach as compared to those given to the seventy-two: both groups are given the same general purpose: to proclaim the kingdom of heaven; but, the twelve, unlike the seventy-two, are specifically told not to go into pagan or Samaritan territory. This further supports the idea that the mission of the seventy-two was a test. The test now being over, and the twelve having been chosen, the real work begins; and, the real work is for God's people to put their own house in order. The Gentiles will have their day after our Lord's ascension into heaven through the preaching of the Blessed Apostle Paul; but, for now, the mission is only to the Jews. This makes sense even from a purely pragmatic point of view, and translates analogously to the life of the Church: how can the Church preach a way of life that her own members fail to live? How can the Church evangelize the non-believer when her own children are in such need of evangelization? How can the Church preach the truth to a weary and confused world when so many of her own either don't know or openly reject the truth? How can someone who lacks interior conversion hope to convert someone else?
Pope Benedict mentioned this when he came up with the idea of what he called the “New Evangelization,” only it wasn't all that new; it was simply a new face being put on an old idea that the spiritual doctors of the Church have talked about for centuries: that the first people we need to convert is ourselves.
Quaérite fáciem Dómini semper. The response for today's psalm: “Seek always the face of the Lord.” Psalm 105 itself is pointedly worded: “On the Lord, on the Lord’s greatness still let your hearts dwell, on the Lord’s presence be your hearts set. Remember the marvellous acts he did, his miracles, his sentences of doom” (Psalm 105: 4-5 Knox). That's Msgr. Knox's translation of the second stanza of our psalm, and we mustn't miss where the emphasis is placed: “Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly” (v. 4 RM3), not to ourselves and our strength.
Finally, we should not miss the fact that Saint Matthew, listing the names of our Lord's chosen apostles, with an almost comic subtlety appends to the name of Judas the fact that he would betray our Lord. He mentions it because our Lord knew it. He chooses Judas anyway because without this betrayal the real reason for our Lord's incarnation cannot be realized. We all have our role to play in God's plan. Most of the seventy-two would not become apostles, but they still had a function. Judas would go down in history as the one who would betray our Lord, and his name would be synonymous with treason forever, but he, too, had his role to play. So do we. It may not be the role we want. We may think of ourselves as leaders, but our Lord may think otherwise. We may think of ourselves as spiritual guides to others, but that's not for us to say. Part of our fallen nature is to view ourselves as more important than we actually are; that's referenced in the very temptations offered to Adam and Eve in Genesis. That's why Psalm 105 is so important: “Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly. Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought, his portents, and the judgments he has uttered” (vs. 4-5 RM3).
* Born near Ancona, Italy, into a poor peasant family, Maria (1890-1902) was known for her cheerfulness and piety. At the age of twelve, she was stabbed to death by a young man for resisting his attempts to seduce her. He later reformed his life completely and was present at her canonization in 1950.
** In the extraordinary form, on the ferial days outside of privileged seasons, the lessons are repeated from the previous Sunday.
*** Born in Egypt, Sisoes the Great spent sixty years in complete seclusion on a mountain, dying in the year 429.