Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B
Fr. Steven Roth

A family had the tradition that they would invite their grandparents over for dinner every Sunday. One Sunday in particular the youngest daughter, who was just 6, was asked to say the grace. Little Liza didn’t want to do it as she said she didn’t know what to say. Liza’s father reassured her and told her just to say what she hears her Mom says before these Sunday dinners. Liza began, “Dear God, please get them to leave early.”

Like Liza, today’s gospel challenges us, in a sense, to repeat what we have heard. The gospel challenges us to repeat what we hear in Church, to go out, and share God’s words of love, mercy, forgiveness and peace.

Yet, like Liza, don’t we often get in trouble for repeating what we hear when it comes to our lives of faith? How often do moms and dads find that when they repeat this message to their children, it often does not go well? They hear “Mass is so boring.” “Ryan’s mom does not make him go.” “I’m tired.” I’m sure even spouses sometimes face similar difficulty when one spouse chooses to stay home while the other goes to Mass. As a priest I know I get in trouble too. Often people respond to what I repeat by telling me they can pray at home, etc.

However, Jesus is not naïve. The gospel makes clear that we will not always be successful. Sometimes people, sadly our own family and friends, might not respond like we had hoped. Jesus tells us when that happens, “shake the dust off our feet.” Now that does not mean we give up and move on from them. Instead, we do not allow that moment of rejection or frustration to weigh us down or distract us from the mission of spreading the gospel. Sure it hurts and is tough when people don’t like what we say, but we can’t give up. Not giving up does not mean harping day in and day out. Rather, we continue to repeat the gospel message by example.

Our example is something I think you and I often forget to realize how important and what an impact it can have on people. Have you ever noticed sometimes that we go to Mass and then allow something, either driving or whatever, to irritate us? We get home and we are miserable. I’m not sure when that happens that we are convincing anyone about our message. What convinces people is when they sincerely see our lives are different because of God and the Church. When we are more generous, understanding, forgiving, this gets peoples’ attention. It means when we forgive someone when no one would expect forgiveness that announces the gospel.

Does it take work? Sure does. Is it easier to not do this? Absolutely. But honestly, if we are going to be followers of Jesus, it’s not an option. We won’t always get it right. What if we make mistakes? We will make mistakes, but God knows that and still calls us to be his voice in the world.

So today and every time we are at Mass and we hear those powerful final words of the Mass, “go forth and announce the gospel of the Lord” may it serve as a reminder to be like Liza, to repeat what we hear, for that is what we have been told to do.

St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church