15th Sunday Year B - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2003

Jesus gave the twelve authority over the unclean spirits: he sent them out with the job to name the evil and to expose the double-talk.  So they set out to preach repentance, to call to conversion, more accurately, to call people to a whole new way of seeing and evaluating things: to see people desperately in need of wholeness, in relationships respecting responsibilities, rights and freedom.

In Mark’s Gospel this is still early days. We are only in chapter six of sixteen. Their own conversion was still so incomplete, unfinished. Their own wisdom still so undeveloped.  I find all this so consoling! I find myself still in a constant process of growing and learning, getting in touch with what Jesus really is on about. I sometimes cringe when I come across notes of homilies that I have given, things I have said.  Probably you parents have a similar experience. You are probably only wise enough to be entrusted with children when you are too old to have them. And besides, you only learn your wisdom by being thrown in at the deep end!

Formation through life! (There is no other effective way!) Provided that life is reflected on and examined in a context of shared exploring and the support of the group, often the extended family.  It is obviously written into our human nature by our creating God that we are people in process, often, indeed mostly, in the dark, especially in the important things. We need to take risks, and inevitably we make mistakes. Our guiding values can be clear: particularly the dignity of the human person, but what that entails in practice, especially in new and tricky situations, is not always clear. St Thomas Aquinas taught that the further we move along the line from the basic principles, the more difficult it becomes for ourselves to be certain of our conclusions; and, even when we feel certain ourselves, it is unlikely that everyone else will see things with the same clarity.

The important thing is that we be able to own our mistakes and our uncertainties, that we learn from them and that we be free to change our minds, neither going into denial nor becoming defensive.

Jesus sent them out – so unprepared, so unfinished!  In the Gospel passage, the emphasis seems to be more on how to travel and how to respond than on what to say.  Travel light: just the staff, the sandals and the tunic they are wearing.  We go into our world, just as who we are. We do not take ourselves too seriously; we are at peace with our vulnerability; we do not kid ourselves that we have got it all together already: just our staff and what we are wearing!

And don’t burn up too much energy being upset by those who do not, who will not, come on board, who won’t share our values or our way of living. If any place does not welcome you, walk away, shaking off the dust from under your feet.  Love them, do what you can, but do not let their blindness or uncooperativeness destroy your own peace, your joy, your sense of wonder, your gratitude, whatever.