14th Sunday Ordinary Time 2019

Behold I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, so be therefore as wise as serpents and yet as gentle as doves.  (Matt  10:16)

I heard this past week that a major news agency like CNN had been doing some investigative reporting regarding the tragic fire at the beloved Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  The reporter spent the night in the Cathedral and found the opportunity to interview face to face the infamous Quasimodo, and he asked him if he had any inside knowledge of the tragic fire.  Quasimodo reportedly replied that he did not know if the fire was caused by a cigarette butt from one of the construction workers or if it was the result of faulty wiring, but he also said….clearly I do have my own hunch!”

Just a little humor to begin our time together as we explore this awesome set of readings of our liturgy this weekend.

Like Quasimodo…I have a hunch that many of us after listening to the readings today might say….ok so what?

If we did not spend this time together, and we simply continued on with our liturgy and walked out those doors, would what we have heard make any difference to us or to our world?

If we were to be brutally honest with each other, we would probably have to say….most likely not!

We might even be able to summarize our experience and say….ok Isaiah is encouraging us to rejoice….Paul in his letter to Galatians is boasting the the Cross….which I really don’t understand….and its neat that Jesus sent out 70 or 72 disciples, but I go out every day and I certainly don’t see Satan falling from the sky or feel like demons obey me or that I have healed the sick.

Would that be a fair assessment if we did nothing else tonight?

While I would agree that may be a preliminary assessment I hope we can turn it around and maybe change that perspective just a little.

The great scientific mind of the late Albert Einstein said this:

The important thing is to never stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when they contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. Never lose a holy curiosity.

My hope is that tonight we might peak a little holy curiosity and maybe even a little holy encouragement.

Let’s look at the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah:

Many scholars cite 597 BCE as the date of the first deportation, for in that year King Jehoiachin was deposed and apparently sent into exile with his family, his court, and thousands of workers. Others say the first deportation followed the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar in 586; if so, the Jews were held in Babylonian captivity for 48 years. Among those who accept a tradition (Jeremiah 29:10) that the exile lasted 70 years, some choose the dates 608 to 538, others 586 to about 516 (the year when the rebuilt Temple was dedicated in Jerusalem).

  • 1–39: Proto-Isaiah, containing the words of the original Isaiah;  600 BCE
  • 40–55: Deutero-Isaiah, the work of an anonymous Exilic author;  560 BCE
  • 56–66: Trito-Isaiah, an anthology of about twelve passages.[17] 516 BCE


No matter what….Isaiah is facing a generation that has known only exile, hardship, and despise…and the prophet is trying to encourage the newly returning exiles to rejoice again….they have been restored….

I wonder if maybe some of the wisdom of the Church may be coming through for us.  We are living in a time of much division, internationally, politically, religiously, and civilly…..and maybe we need to hear those words as well…maybe we need to hear that God will indeed spread peace over us like a river…and the wealth of nations like an over flowing torrent.

Remember Einstein’s Holy Curiosity….I did just a little research…and found out that if we as a nation would use just 1/3 of the land that is located between our interstate roadways for the production of food, we would be able to feed the entire world’s population.  1/3!

Here is the bottom line my friends….we can and could make a huge difference in the world….if we choose to…but it would not be, and it is not easy…maybe that is where Paul’s idea of the Cross comes into play.

The decision of holiness is not an easy one…and in being and doing and living the Spiritual Life…we will find opposition, dismissal, disregard, and disgust…but so did Jesus…so we must be in fairly good company.

I am also going to challenge my earlier summary of the Gospel pericope today.  Although I do believe many of us would say that we don’t see Satan falling from the sky or that we have cured the sick or witnessed demons obeying us…I am gently going to beg to differ!

You see there is a challenge in language, interpretation and meanings…

Heal those who are sick there…..in greek the word is actually those who are “astheneis”….literally…those without strength…weak

There are a couple of things that we do very well at here as a community…and this is one…we try in many ways to help those without strength….from laundry soap, to flip flops, to winter coats, and hats and gloves and dresses for children a continent away…

We lift in prayer, we support, we in many ways are always trying to find ways to strengthen those who have no one to lift them up…to be a voice for the voiceless.

We have put and continue to put hours of thought and prayer and discussion and dialogue into our strategic plans so that we insure we live as a community into the values that drive us to spread the good news.  We really do try our best to live the Gospel out loud.

I have seen us living the commission we share at the end of every liturgy…we know how much a tired and hurting world needs our strength and our joy and our gladness….for there are deeds of compassion and courage that will never be done unless we do them and words of hope and healing that will never be spoken unless we speak them….

I want to encourage us to continue….because every time we do one of those things Satan does indeed fall from the sky…I have seen anger transformed with a smile and despair demolished by a hug.  I have witnessed hope and experienced joy here as I have rarely witnessed or experienced in my past.  I have seen us changing the world and I hope we never, ever stop!

I hope we never let our holy curiosity wane, and that we never stop helping one another to be and become our very best selves.

There is a parallel saying to the one of our Lukan Gospel tonight that I would like to leave you with as we step forth tonight….from the lips of Jesus to each and everyone of us:

Behold I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, so be therefore as wise as serpents and yet as gentle as doves.  (Matt  10:16)

—Bishop Marty Shanahan