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Does God Really Want to Partner with Us?

Homily for the 11th Sunday In Ordinary Times

Cycle A Given at St. Jude, June 18, 2023

By Deacon Ken Steponaitis

Now that we are past Easter, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi, we return to what the Church calls ordinary time. From the Latin ordinalis or ordered we get the word ordinal, or a way of numbering. So, Sundays are numbered using second, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 11th, etc. But by no means should we think of ordinary times as unimportant or ordinary.

The world today seems far from ordinary and as Christians our task is far from ordinary. Today God is speaking to us about being a partner with Him. And there is nothing ordinary about that. Imagine partnering with God! It’s an incredible thought. In fact, it’s hard for me to consider myself as a partner with anyone who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving. Yet based on our readings today, that is exactly what God wants to do with us … partner with Him!

Whenever we consider our purpose for being alive, from a secular perspective, most people when asked would not say my reason for being is to be a partner with God and yet when we look at our first reading that is exactly what God is telling the Israelites.

While Moses was on the mountain speaking to God, God told Moses how he brought the nation of Israel to Him. That the Israelites were His … special possession. That although the earth belongs to God, the Israelites were to be set apart from all the other nations. But for what purpose you might ask. Simply this … to be God to the world. To be an example nation. A nation who is in relationship with a God like no other of the gods being worshiped at the time. They were to lead people to the God of gods.

To appreciate how unique this relationship with God and the Israelites is, it is important to understand that every other nation in the known world at the time had gods. And these gods were not like the God of Israel. They were more like dictators who could be appeased by offerings. Need more rain? Go to the Egyptian god Tefnut and offer up some food, drink, and incense. These Egyptian gods were vain and vindictive. They would never consider partnering with humanity. Humans were their subjects not partners. Yet when Moses came down the mountain, he told his followers that God had made a covenant, an agreement. It was simple, “hearken (listen) to my voice and keep my covenant. If you do that, you will be “my special possession, dearer to me than all other people.” No God had spoken to humanity that way before. These were words of love and endearment. Little did they know that the God of Israel had a purpose for the Israelites. They were to bring all mankind to Him so that a new Kingdom could be established.

And, if you continue with the story of the Israelites you will see, time and time again, God’s special possession would fail. They would turn away. And time and time again, God would call them back, renew the covenant, reestablish the relationship, and make clearer and clearer what it meant to be partners of God. And why would God do this. Why is God so relentless in His pursuit of humanity? Because he loves us too much to let us go.

And to really show how much God wanted us to be in partnership with Him, he ups the ante. God sends his son. God becomes human in Jesus. He re-establishes the covenant, yet again, and this time is willing to partner with us, human to human, and love us to death.

In our Gospel today, Matthew describes how Jesus “was moved with pity.” The Israelites, now known as Jews, were like sheep without a shepherd. They were troubled and abandoned. In one translation I read, it said they were harassed and torn apart, meaning Jesus understood how humanity could flounder and loose their way. How they could feel separated and unimportant … torn apart. And Jesus wanted to do something about it.

As God, Jesus could have continued going about performing miracle after miracle to show how wonderful He is. He could have set everything right by collecting all those people who believed in Him and condemning all the rest to hell. Instead, he called twelve disciples. Just ordinary men with ordinary lives and ordinary sins to partner with him. And Jesus gave them a special gift. A powerful gift. They would be able to drive out unclean spirits and cure every disease and illness just like Jesus did! This God was not a god of the Egyptians. Nor was He a god of the Greeks or the Romans. This God sought us out. Sought to renew the covenant that he had established with the Israelites so many years before. This God wanted to continue his partnership and have mere mortals do the work of God!

These twelve disciples were like you and me. They had nothing special. Had Jesus not chosen them, we would have known nothing about them, and in fact we know very little about them other than how ordinary they were and the extraordinary power they were given to use.

This partnership, by the way, did not end with the 12 disciples. It continues with you and me. Just ordinary people living ordinary lives, called to do extraordinary things. Now you may ask, what good can we possibly do?

I don’t know if you have ever been to the Grand Canyon. If you haven’t, go. It’s an extraordinary place. It’s one of nature’s signposts pointing to God. It is said that the Grand Canyon was formed by water cutting through the land. If that is true, and science is always right, then that canyon was formed one drop of water at a time.

The other day, after it had rained, I was walking down one of the walking paths that goes along Waters Creek here in Alen. I was thinking about how one drop of water means very little in the grand scheme of things. Even two drops or three mean very little, but quadrillions of drops of water in a localized place like Allen, now we have a deluge of water that rushes down a creek, into a larger creek, then a river, possibly bigger rivers. They call the Mississippi river the “Mighty Mississip.” Not because one drop of water happens to fall, but because quadrillions upon quadrillions of drops of water come together and suddenly there is a power that no one can stop.

I tell you this because in a way, every action of love, every decision we make to do God’s will, every prayer we pray for someone else, is a like a drop of water. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world … 2.4 billion Christians in the world. Imagine if it were possible that everyone of us would hearken to the voice of God; would go about doing one good deed, making one good decision, praying one good prayer for someone else; every time we knew to do so, in partnership with God, spreading the Gospel of God’s love, being the priests we are called to be in our baptisms. Being that Holy Nation God calls for us to be. There would be a deluge of Christianity, the likes of which nothing can stop.

Every time I think about the possibility that God wants to partner with me, it brings about an uneasy, maybe a bit scary, kind of peace. It is so clear today that our society has become topsy-turvy. There are times I want to just throw my hands up and just go with the flow; to not worry about anyone else except me and my family. Just keep them safe, housed and fed. Let the world do as it does and me just live my life the best way I can. Then I read this Gospel and recognize myself in the disciples. That’s exactly what the disciples were doing … going along to get along. And then Jesus pulls them in … as he pulls us in today … and says, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.”

In biblical terms, the harvest is the time of decision. A time to determine who will enter the Kingdom of God. Our task is to get as many people collected up, and ready to return to the Father. We are the laborers. We are the partners with God called to be priests to the world. One of us doing one act of kindness, like a single drop of water, won’t make much of a difference. But imagine if all 1.2 billion of us lovers and haters, do-gooders, and sinners, the humble and the egomaniacs came together for the purpose of doing God’s will, bringing as many people to God as we could muster … what a world this would be.

You need the power of Jesus? You got it at every Mass. Take Jesus into you and participate in Jesus’ divinity. You have His power of love ready to go about healing the sick, driving out daemons, and raising the dead. Not by your power but by the power God in you and partnering with you!

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