Fifteenth Sunday: Preaching to Those Not in the Choir
This weekend about 80 of our young people are attending a Youth Conference hosted by Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. There will be 3 to 4 thousand young people there. There are actually 19 of these conferences throughout our country. Over 50,000 Catholic Teens will attend. Another 2,000 will merge play and spirituality at Cove Crest Camps, and the other Catholic Camps run by Life Teen. The most spiritual and intense of all of the experiences was completed a few weeks ago when 450 Teens, including 15 from our parish, attended the Life Teen Leadership Conference.
It is quite a sacrifice the young people make, giving up a week or weekend of their summer to come closer to Christ. Many of them have to change their summer jobs. Some have to forego family vacations. Many have to find ways to pay for their trip. All have to sacrifice the beach, the mall, hanging with friends and so forth. They make whatever sacrifice is necessary and with the support of their parents and their parishes, they arrive willing to grow.
The week or weekend flies by. It concludes much sooner than they expect. Then the real work begins. The Teens come home full of enthusiasm. They want to change their lives, keeping Christ as their Center. This is not easy. It is one thing to focus on Him when in a secure, spiritual environment. It is another thing to focus on the Lord when continually confronted with the temptations of those elements of society that have deified materialism. Many of the Teens will actually write out new schedules for themselves to put prayer before everything else in their lives. Some will begin Journaling. They will form plans to avoid immorality.
All this is actually easy when compared to the more difficult task waiting for the Teens when they return home. The Teens want to share their experience of Jesus’ Love with others, particularly their families. And many others, sometimes even within their families, simply do not want to hear it. The challenge of Christianity might be too much for them, particularly when it comes from an unexpected source, one’s own child.
But that doesn’t decrease the importance of the message, or the need for the Teens to proclaim it.
This is not just about Teens returning from a spiritual experience. This is about each of us, called to make the spiritual real in the world. All of us are called to allow God into the Center of our lives. All of us are called share the experience of the Lord with others. This isn’t just the work of the priests and sisters and religious brothers. No, it is the work of all the baptized. It is the work of Amos.
Amos was a normal, everyday working man. We hear about him in the first reading. He lived just south of the border between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, on the Judea side. Amos crossed the border into the North and proclaimed God’s truth to those in the City of Bethel. The people there were soft selling their faith. They were part timing their devotion to Yahweh. Amos told them to change their lives and be
committed to the Lord. The priest Amaziah told Amos to stop confronting the people and go back to Judah. Amos responded: “I am not a professional prophet. I am an arborist, a dresser of trees. But I cannot refuse to proclaim the Lord.”
Nor can any of us. We have to “proclaim the word, in season and out of season” as St. Paul writes in 2 Tim 4:2. We have to proclaim the truth we experience within us whether it is a time others want to hear it, in season, or whether it is a time they would rather we just keep quiet, out of season.
While He was still with us on earth, before his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. These disciples were ordinary, everyday men entrusted with an extraordinary task. Jesus told them that the mission was urgent. They shouldn’t be bogged down with impediments of luggage. (By the way the Latin word for luggage is in fact impedimentum.) But they should wear sandals because they had a lot of ground to cover. They needed to proclaim to all. Some would listen, and others would reject them, but the message had to be proclaimed to as many people as possible.
It is the same for all of us. We need to bring the message, the experience, the very presence of Jesus Christ to the world. Some will listen to you who will not listen to me. Perhaps it is people your age, be it senior citizen down to child, who will say, “I want to be happy with life as he or she is happy.” Perhaps it will be people who look to you for guidance, such as your own children or grandchildren. Perhaps it will be people who respect and love you, such as your parents and brothers and sisters. Many of these people will hear the message clearer when it comes from you rather than from me or any priest. So proclaim the message.
And yes, there will be people who will reject the message. You may indeed have to move on and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ to others. But don’t stop praying for them. And be patient. Joy, happiness and the Presence of the Lord are contagious, but sometimes it takes time for the Cure to Life to overwhelm a person.
50 to 60 thousand young people will grab an eagle this summer and will soar. All of us have been called to grab the eagle and soar.
We pray today for the courage to hold on tight and the wisdom to find ways to hold out our hands for others to join us. For the ride, the journey with Christ, is wonderful.