Today I celebrate 28 years of my first mass, I remember how nervous I was when I had to preach, I did not know how. In fact I was lousy, and there are days that I still am. I believe that God has given me a gift, but it is His gift, as he at times lets me preach without it and boy do I hate those moments in which I feel dried and abandoned. I am grateful to those who have helped me in this journey. I can certainly say that I have performed miracles, but also made many mistakes along the way and got confused many times. After 28 years of priesthood and 8 years of seminary life, I am much more mature, although it has been a rollercoaster. Nevertheless, I would not change my life one bit!
In 2010, I was in St. Peter’s square with 15 thousands priests in front of Pope Benedict XVI. He talked to us about today’s gospel. The calling to be a priest comes from God: we cannot make priests on our own. We have to beg God to send us more priests, the pope said. As I reflected on that I realized that God’s calling is not only for priests, but for people in general. A mother that does not want to be a mother, will make a very bad mother, why? Because there is no vocation, there is no calling to be a mother. A janitor, who hates his job, will do a lousy job cleaning. A Christian, who does not understand his calling, makes a bad Christian.
The laborers are few and the work to be done is overwhelming! Those who do not want to hear will make excuses NOT TO HEAR. The disciples were sent to villages and towns with nothing else, but the word of God; no cell phones, no books, no bible, no money, no car, no comforts. They were sent to people who did not want to hear the message, in fact, Jesus warned them about that: if you enter in a place and you are not welcomed, he said, dust off the dirt that you gathered in his house, brush off the dust and forget about that experience, there will be many others that are willing to listen to the word.
I have known teachers that become very frustrated with their children: “those who do not want to learn cannot be taught”, they say, “and those who want to learn, will learn even without the teacher”. So why teach? There is a frustration that comes with the work of teaching, or evangelizing, or giving a sermon: the frustration of knowing that your words may not be understood, that your message may get lost in translation, that your willingness to teach and your sacrifice may go to waste. When I feed my birds, I have small parrots; they throw most of their food out and eat whatever is left in the bowl. Sometimes they are still hungry, because they threw the food out. I cannot reason with them, it is their nature. I try to be nice, but they bite me, not knowing how much I love them.
Human beings are not that different from parrots, they are temperamental, they bite and they waste many opportunities. Jesus knew that, so he taught the disciples to go out and know of the many risks that come from feeding parrots. I mean teach, because not all of the 72 disciples that Jesus sent out were priests. Many of them were fathers and businessmen, they were farmers and shepherds. Later, Jesus will send men and women to every corner in the world. God’s calling is for everyone. The call comes when you get what Jesus is saying and put it into practice.
Jesus warned them and warns us not to be proud of our accomplishments. When the 72 came back, they were so amazed and happy of the things they could do and Jesus cautioned them. Pride has been listed as a capital sin, and I believe that there is a misunderstanding of why pride is sinful. It is understandable to be proud of your children or your parents or even your accomplishments, but when pride interferes with growth then it becomes a sin. I have known healers who go around boasting on their ability to heal – only to lose their gift later. I guess that is the difference between pride as a normal reaction and pride as boasting for something that is not yours, but God’s.
Today’s gospel is so rich that I would write forever about it, so let me recap what I think is important to me: Jesus is sending us to others who do not have a special relationship with him (which means that before you open your mouth to preach about Jesus you need that special relationship with him as well). Before Jesus sends us, he cautions us: there are people who may not want to hear what you are mandated to teach, so don’t get frustrated, know that there are others who will listen. And third: when people do hear, know that it is not the product of your work, but the product of the Spirit within you. Be happy and why not, be proud, but be careful that the pride does not spoil the catch –pride will turn your experiences sour very fast – so remain humble, because the gifts that you have are solely God’s and they can and will disappear at times.
Let us pray and ask God to renew his calling on us, so that we may carry his words to others. May we remain humble and learn to be realistic about the workings of the Spirit. God bless.
Fr. Marc Angelo, PO Box 3414, Culver City, CA 90231
Mass every Sunday at 6:00pm at St. Mary’s in Palms 3647 Watseka Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034-3914
Every last Sunday of the month mass in Spanish at 4:00 pm and English at 6:00 pm.