15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 15, 2018
Jesus began to send them out two by two.
I have no idea whether or not they ever met face to face. However, in the last century, there were two Jesuit theologians who accepted the Lord’s invitation to go out into the world and face off against darkness and evil. Karl Rahner, SJ (1904-1984) and Walter J. Burghardt, SJ (1914-2008) may not have worked side by side, but they were contemporaries who were “shoulder to shoulder” in the work of discipleship.
Like Amos the prophet, they both heard and heeded God’s call to Go prophesy to my people. Through their respective preaching, writings, and prayers, they both made God’s will and God’s ways known to the world, addressing 20th century issues in 20th century language. And like God’s message delivered through Amos the prophet thousands of years ago, their writings are not “dated material.” In fact, their messages might be more relevant…more critical today than when the Holy Spirit first placed extraordinary wisdom on their minds and in their hearts…and moved it to their tongues and to their typewriters. (They both did their most brilliant work before PCs).
In a talk he was giving sometime prior to 1965, Rahner is quoted as saying: From a historical point of view, our age, the twentieth century, is more difficult to live in than ages past. But this is our age; it is an age of momentous change, and also a time for new orientation for Christian living.
Over 50 years have passed since Rahner made those remarks, and during that time, humanity has experienced a virtual tsunami of change…in every aspect of our lives. The word “momentous” is totally inadequate to capture the breadth and width of change in science, technology, medicine, transportation, politics, and social structures we have experienced and endured. There has even been great change in our Catholic Church.
But, in spite of all of that change, God’s eternal plan for us described so beautifully in our Second Reading has remained completely unchanged…in every detail. However, God’s plan remains under attack from dark and evil forces. And so, we are called to develop a “new orientation” for Christian living that will be effective in “driving out the many demons” that are rattling around in the world. This is our age! This is our opportunity to go out “two by two”…in other words…in the company of other disciples, to square off against every form of darkness and evil and to help heal a wounded world.
In a book called Speak the Word with Boldness, published back in 1993, his intended audience being preachers of the Gospel, Fr. Burghardt wrote: Must we be silent while power structures rape the earth that sustains us, destroy legally 1.6 million developing humans each year, keep every fifth child in abject poverty, hold 37 million Americans without healthcare, balance the scales of Lady Justice in favor of the moneyed, yes, even gas or hang criminals for vengeance’ sake? Shall we be silent when rugged individualism threatens not only our country but our church?
The numbers might well have changed since 1993, becoming increasingly dire, but the issues remain the same. And so, we are called to develop a “new orientation” for Christian living that will be effective in “driving out the many demons” that are rattling around in the world now…today…in 2108. This is our age! This is our opportunity to go out “two by two,” in other words, in the company of other disciples, and work to make God’s plan for all humankind a reality.
And so we pray today…on this 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time…2018…an age more difficult, more challenging for followers of Jesus Christ to live in than other times in Salvation history…for a new orientation to the ways in which we hear and live out the Gospel.
Dear Lord, grace us to see you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly. Force us freely to feel your presence—in our gathering together, in the Word proclaimed, in the bread transformed into your body, in the Host within our hearts. Then send us forth to proclaim news that is excitingly good, to cast out of ourselves and our people the idols we have erected in your stead, to witness to your risen reality because we have experienced you…alive!
(Fr. Walter J. Burghardt, Speak the Word with Boldness, 1993)