Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Divine Networking

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word "networking" was first used in 1967. But its reality extends as far back as the Old Testament. The first networking I find in the Bible was in the days of Moses in the wilderness as he led the people of Israel to Canaan, the promised land.

In the eighteenth chapter of Exodus we have the story of how Jethro, Moses' father-in-law brought the latter's wife and his two sons to join God's people in the wilderness in their walk towards Canaan. The next day after his arrival Jethro noticed that so many people went to Moses to consult him about this and that problem. This was going on from morning till the evening. Jethro noticed that Moses was overworked by attending to these people. He then advised Moses to appoint able and God-fearing men who would be officers for groups of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. The people would bring their problems to these officers and not to Moses. It is only when these officers could not solve the problem brought to them that they were to consult Moses.

Here was a perfect example of networking in the Old Testament. The starting at the base is a group of ten, headed by an officer. Five groups of ten compose a group of fifty which is headed by another officer. Two groups of fifties compose a group of one hundred headed by another officer. Then ten groups of one hundred compose a group of one thousand headed by another officer.

Jesus used a similar pattern in the distribution of bread in the wilderness. In the account of Mark, chapter 6, beginning with verse 34, the story is that Jesus fed the people with bread and fish. He first told them to sit down in groups or parties. Verse 40 gives us a picture of how the people sat down in the grass. Mark says, "The people took their places in hundreds and fifties, neatly arranged like flower beds." This was also networking.

Today of course we are familiar with networking in business. There are uplines who enroll us in their business. We are the downlines they enroll who become uplines as soon as we have a downline, a group of people under us. The goods sold in networking range from personal health products like soap and medicines to appliances and other things. I buy something, like soap, from a networking company. I like the soap. I recruit others to buy this soap. They get a discount and I get my commission.

When Jesus proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God he knew that he had only a few years to physically live on this planet earth. Since he wanted his work to continue even after he left earth physically, he established a network of workers who would continue his work. And that is what happened as narrated in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 10. The beginning of this chapter says that he chose twelve of his disciples to become apostles, persons whom he would send to do the work for him and in his name. They were to expel unclean spirits, cure sickness and disease of every kind.

Our Gospel reading today is the end of this chapter 10 in Matthew's Gospel and it describes another kind of networking, something very unique, something that most of us are not aware of. I call this divine networking.

Let us read once again this unique kind of networking. It starts in verse 40. Jesus said to the twelve disciples whom he commissioned to do his work away from him, "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives even just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

Notice the lines of the network here. The disciple goes out to heal the sick. When the people receive the disciple, they not only receive the disciple. Jesus says, they also receive Jesus in the person of that disciple. The line does not stop there. Jesus says, the people not only receive Jesus, they also receive the one who sent him, that is, God the Father. So here we have four groups of people in our divine networking. The people who receive the disciple, the disciples who follow the command of Jesus to cure the sick, Jesus himself, and God the Father.

The next sentence is illustrated by our first reading. Jesus said, "Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward".

In our first reading we have the story of Elisha, the successor of Elijah. In Shunem a well to do woman received him to dine with her and this woman asked her husband to arrange a room for Elisha with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he came to that place again he could stay there. Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight. When Elisha asked what could be done for her as a reward, his servant Gehazi answered, "She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years." Elisha said, "Call her." When the woman had been called and stood at the door, Elisha promised, "This time next year you will be fondling a baby son."

The rest of the story in the second book of Kings, chapter 4, tells us what happened. The woman did bear a son and this son grew up and died of a heat wave or sunstroke or something. And again Elisha gave a favor to this woman by raising this boy back to life.

The woman received a prophet and got a reward, a son and a resurrected son, a boy who lived twice.

The second reading also tells us of a networking. Paul is saying that what happened to Jesus happened also to us and this is illustrated by baptism. Baptism is a picture of burial, burial in water, because as our Catechism tells us the meaning of baptism is immersion (1214). This signifies our burial with Jesus so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. When Jesus died, we died with him. We now, Paul says, must think of ourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

What does all this tell us? It tells us that we are in a big networking activity of God. God is networking with us. In networking there is a good that is passed from one person to another. Otherwise it is not networking but pyramiding. In the case of God, the good that is passed from one person to another is the life of his Son Jesus. Jesus passed his life and authority to his disciples. Thus they were able to cure diseases as Jesus did. His disciples passed this life of Jesus to other disciples, who passed it still to other disciples, until this life reached us, Jesus' disciples in this age and part of the world.

It is now our turn to pass this life of Jesus to others who would be disciples of Jesus. They are our downlines and we are their uplines.

It is not primarily teachings that are passed around for us to understand and observe. What is passed down to other disciples is Jesus' life. Paul says, as Jesus lived, died and rose to a new life, so too we live, die with Jesus and rise with him to a completely new life.

Our life now is completely new, thanks to the networking activity of God.

Let us pray as we bow our heads.

Thank you, Jesus, for including us in your networking business, the business of passing on your life to your disciples who passed this to other disciples until it reached us. Thank you for this new life you have given to us by your death and resurrection. And enable us to pass your life to others so that more and more will know you and love you.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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