15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

I lived with a priest, who will remain nameless at this point, who was famous for his social calendar. I’ve never seen someone book so much into one evening. I remember one night in particular, a few nights earlier he had come to me and told me as a courtesy that he was having a cocktail party at the rectory, but I remember thinking to myself, wait didn’t we both agree to go to dinner at a parishioner’s house that night. The day came, we both made it to diner. He left a little before I did, I came back to the rectory and of course this party was going on so I did the gentleman thing, I walked around, shook some hands, had a little bit to eat. Since they weren’t my friends, I went back to my living quarters, sat down and turned on the baseball game and there is my pastor on TV in the stands. He had the mastered the art of hosting a party at his house, everyone thought he was there, and he was away at the Cardinal’s game.

You can imagine I asked him about it the next morning. I was more impressed than anything and asked the master to teach me his ways. How can I be in 3 different places at one time? You’d be surprised to hear that at a later time he told me how for much of his life he struggled with loneliness. He had all kinds of friends, he was at every party there was, shoot, he was even hosting parties he wasn’t at and he said he was lonely. It got me thinking, I think if all of us honest, we have to admit there are times in our lives where we go through this loneliness. And as I look back at it in my life, I find that the times I am most lonely are the times that I am the busiest. Whether it is work, lots of family or friends, the holiday season, etc. we go from one thing to the next and I think if we stop and think about it, we realize we are missing something and that is where the loneliness creeps in. Why? Because we take our eyes off what is most important.

It is in those times where we get busy or we have all these things going on that we think these parties, this work, our job or whatever it is will actually satisfy us and we fail to realize that there is only one person who can truly satisfy us, and that is Jesus Christ. If we try to find that satisfaction in other things, we end up being lonely.

You know loneliness is a very common problem in our world today. There are tons of people in our society who are searching for anything to bring them meaning or hope. But as St. Augustine reminds us, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”[1]

Its crazy, technology is so good today, and even as technology gets better, we become less and less connected. Maybe you experienced this during the pandemic. Zoom is a great tool, but it is no substitute for being with someone else. You know there are numerous studies that have found that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is associated with it a lot higher rate of mental health impairments. People in the world, today, for as much as they claim to be connected, seem to be out on their own. I guarantee you right now, someone close to you, someone who shares your last name, someone who lives next to you, someone you work with is struggling with this loneliness. Maybe they don’t feel that relationship with you or with God. Perhaps there is some kind of tragedy that has come into their life that makes them feel like they have been cut off from everyone else. Or they might actually be alone in this world living day in and day out with no one to recognize them. Whatever the loneliness is, Jesus provides the solution. Jesus knew this about humanity, He knew that we would experience this loneliness, which is why his last words on earth are so fitting. It’s a great trivia question, what are the last words of Jesus on this earth? What are Jesus last words on earth. He dies, he rises from the dead, he visits for 40 days and right before He ascends to the Father, He gives us His last words, “I am with you always.”[2] Those are Jesus last words to us.

No matter what you are going through and no matter how disconnected you feel, “I am with you always.” It’s a message our world desperately needs to hear. Did you know for really the first time in the modern era, life expectancy in the United States is going down? That’s crazy. For all the medical advances we have, life expectancy is going down and it’s not because of an increase in cancer, heart disease, or things like this. The increase comes in the areas of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse. My generation is literally drinking itself to death because they are trying to find meaning. They are trying to overcome that loneliness, but it is a loneliness that only God can fill. It’s cliché but it is so true. “With God everything, without God nothing. He is the Lord.”[3]

This is exactly why in today’s Gospel; Jesus sends His disciples out two by two. Yes, He gives them a mission. He says they are supposed to cure the sick. They are supposed to drive out demons, but they can do that on their own, they don’t need each other for that, yet He still sends them out two by two. He doesn’t give them many instructions, but He tells them they are to go into someone’s home. He doesn’t say pitch a tent or rent a place and do your good work. No, He sends them into the house. Why? Because all that good work they are meant to do, the goal of bringing Jesus out into the world, only happens in the context of a community.

You see my friends; one can never be Catholic alone. Our faith is not about the individual. Think about the most important thing of our week, what we are doing right now; coming to Mass. We can’t do that alone. It has to be done in the context of a community. And so Jesus sends these disciples out. He sends them out to the broken and the needy, not just to fix their problem, but to call them into a community; into relationship. Jesus does the same to us. He calls us not necessarily to fix everyone’s problem, not necessarily to convert to everybody, but to invite them into the community where the Holy Spirit can work. It is my theory on evangelization.

So often when we are trying to get someone to come back to the faith, what do we do? We drag them kicking and screaming or we force them to come to church. Look I want everyone in the Flint Hill area in church on Sunday. I think it is best for them, but how do you get them there? You invite them into the community. You invite one of their children to play on a sports team, you invite them to join you on a committee, you invite them to a parish function like a picnic or fall festival. What ends up happening, St. Theodore becomes home for them. There will be times in their life when they will begin to question. Maybe it will be a tragedy, maybe it’ll be the death of a loved one and those questions will start sparking and they will turn to the community for answers and before you know it we will find them here with us at Mass on Sunday. But we have to be the ones who go out. We have to be the ones who invite people to come. After all, it is our job to invite people to the community and it is the Holy Spirits job to convert their hearts once they get here.

So, in today’s Gospel we see that Jesus sends His disciples out two by two. From the moment of our baptism you and I were sent out into the world. I guess it begs the question for us then, who are those people in our life that need the invitation? Who is God sending you out to invite into the community, so that in coming to join our family, they might come to know Jesus Christ, who alone will drive away the loneliness, who alone will bring them the fulfillment they need to truly live in this life.

[1] St. Augustine, Confessions Book 1, Chapter 1

[2] Matthew 28:20

[3] St. Faustina Kowalska,  Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011). Pg. 161.

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