29 Ordinary B – October 21, 2012 – Move Things About
Note: In the Diocese of Albany, because of the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, we were allowed to use the following scripture readings today.
Leviticus, 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; John 17:20-26
Kateri Tekakwitha is on our mind today. Her first name was the Mohawk translation of Katherine. Some say the name meant “she who moves things about.” Kateri, whose mother was Catholic, studied about Catholicism with a Jesuit missionary and converted when she was twenty. Her tribe punished her for being a Catholic so she fled to Kahnawake in Quebec where she lived a life of prayer caring for sick and elderly persons. She was just twenty-four years old when she died.
Coincidently Kateri is canonized on World Mission Sunday. Today we might reflect on how our Christian tradition, Catholicism, was spread to this country in the 17th century. Missionaries like the Jesuit martyrs in Auriesville where Kateri lived for awhile are among the many men and women who suffered hardships to bring the gospel message to all peoples. How is the word of God shared today? Who are the missionaries of the 21st century in a country that some say is becoming increasingly secularized?
The first reading from the Book of Leviticus is about a call to holiness. For the Israelites it meant trying to imitate God. How were they to do so? Later in Leviticus there is a list of ethical and ritual commands that would guide them. The greatest command was to love all persons including aliens. This love was to be expressed in concrete ways. For example, equality in areas of civil justice (Lev. 24:22).
The pastoral teachings of the Second Vatican Council remind you and me that we too are called to holiness. (see Lumen Gentium, 5, 39) This powerful statement gave a new, refreshing identity to the church. It meant that all baptized people are members of an egalitarian society called the church. We share responsibilities in areas of worship, social action, faith formation and governance. All of us are co-workers in the vineyard.
The Vatican Two Council also helped us as members of the church realize that what we do together here on earth advances the kindom of God. We believe that that kindom, where peace and justice reign above all else, is already underway but not yet completed. At one time the church believed it was a perfect society. That is perhaps what fueled missionaries to evangelize others. Now we know we are a religious body among many faith traditions with similar goals with regard to ourselves, God and the world. That’s is the challenge we offer one another at the end of every liturgy — to go out to love God and to do good for our neighbors.
The gospel reading from John is considered to be a prayer that Jesus said as he was sending his disciples out on their missions. He prayed that they would be united in all they do; that they would be brought to perfection. What a prayer for us today. There is evidence that those who believe in God, in Christ and a holy Spirit are not entirely united. Some data suggests that we ourselves are scattered and divided not only as a country but as a religious people. One must ask where is the collegial spirit? Where is the dialogue? Where is the shared responsibility?
Today is also Bread for the World Sunday. It is an opportunity for us to engage in a specific deed — to end hunger. Through education, prayer, and worship, we can recommit ourselves to the fight against hunger and poverty in our communities. It is part of our mission. Our food pantry of course is doing its part. As the second reading reminds us we boast about our food pantry in the name of Jesus Christ.
There are many hungers in the world. Hunger for truth and equality. Hunger for reliable relationships both human and divine. Hunger for physical and spiritual sustenance. The Jesuit missionaries were perhaps the ones responsible for planting the seeds of Christianity right here in our backyard. Among others they nourished Kateri Tekakwitha who then “moved things about” in her own life by helping others along the way. Now it is our turn. As disciples of Christ we go forth to feed others.