Sunday, July 7, 2019
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
For more than 50 years our nation has been sending significant numbers of its finest and most dedicated citizens to developing countries across the world as volunteers committed to aid and assist people in need. We know this movement as the Peace Corps. It is undoubtedly one of our nation’s most respected and cherished programs.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus initiated his own unique peace corps when he commissioned 72 disciples, sending them out in pairs as an advance guard of itinerant preachers to proclaim peace to those living and working in the towns and villages he intended to visit. This legion of disciples was to prepare people for the arrival of Jesus. They were to announce that “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” a kingdom of peace and harmony. This kingdom would bring to the Jewish people what Isaiah the prophet 600 years earlier had foretold to his exiled fellow Jews in Babylon on their return to Jerusalem: joy, gladness, exultation, comfort, prosperity, care, empowerment and universal well-being. With the arrival of Jesus would come that longed-for kingdom, that reign of peace. The promised gift of “Shalom,” a living together in peace and dwelling in harmony with one another according to God’s will, would be theirs with the arrival of Jesus. For He himself was God’s very gift of peace for the whole human family.
For ourselves, as contemporary missionary disciples of Christ who have been baptized into his body and anointed with his Spirit, we, too, have been commissioned to go out and bring to our families and friends, our fellow workers and students, our neighbors and acquaintances the same message and good news that the 72 brought to the villagers and townspeople of ancient Israel. Like them, we are being sent by Jesus into our everyday world to carry out a fundamentally distinctive mission. No matter who we are, or where we live, or what work we do, our mission and purpose as missionary disciples of Jesus is one and the same: we are to be “Messengers of Peace.” As followers and companions of Jesus, we are to enter the houses and offices, the schools and centers of our world and bring a word of peace, of goodwill, to residents and dwellers, students and workers of these places. We are to offer the same greeting and message the Risen Christ offered his own disciples when he first encountered them after his resurrection. He greeted them with the simple but powerful word: “Shalom,” Peace.
For Jesus and the Jewish people of his time, “Shalom” summed up all the great aspirations and dreams that a people could possibly wish for one another. For them, it was a unique form of greeting. It signaled a sign of friendship. It included all the blessings we heard in our first reading from Isaiah: comfort, joy, health and salvation.
In truth, the “Peace” Jesus commissions us to bring on a daily basis to others is far more than an ordinary greeting. When the disciples in today’s Gospel proclaim, “Peace to this house,” they are actually bestowing peace not only on the person’s dwelling but also on the very essence of the person’s own life and being. Their greeting is more than a salutation; it is a gift to be received and savored. The peace which God gives through us, the contemporary missionary disciples of Jesus, is a freedom from fear, a freedom from strife, and a freedom from want. Our gift of peace upon others is a blessing to remove life’s burdens, life’s anxieties and life’s tensions from people’s frightened hearts. It is a summons to replace a disordered longing to accumulate inordinate amounts of wealth with a far greater treasure, namely a profound satisfaction with family, friends and the ordinary things of life. It is a summons to be reconciled with God and with one another. It is an invitation to accept ourselves as we are and to relish the immense beauty of nature and goodness of our world. Our greeting of peace is an invitation to liberate ourselves and others from the unreal world of possessions, power and pride and to dwell in the world of friendship and human fellowship.
In brief, “Shalom” is the very salvation and liberation which Jesus came to bring to this world and which he bestows on us now: this day, this hour, this moment. Christ’s “Shalom” bestows the fullness of God’s life and presence upon us and upon the places where we live and work.
Through our baptism into Christ, we are commissioned to be his ambassadors and messengers of peace. We are his contemporary peace corps of missionary disciples announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand even in the midst of our broken city, divided nation, and contentious world. Our daily mission is to be agents and witnesses of peace in every place we visit and among every people we encounter. Amen
Rev. Bill Watters, SJ
St. Ignatius Church
740 N. Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202