A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; we know this means Star Wars! But if I said: space... the final frontier we know this speaks of the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Remember its mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Star Wars or Star Trek; great space adventures, transporting us to brand new places and brand new adventures!
We all get excited when we travel to new places and experience new adventures. Sometimes it seems a little daunting at first, like the first time I traveled out of the country to visit Australia & New Zealand! Whatever the destination, whatever the challenges, excitement always wins out over any apprehension.
As people of faith, we are called to new places and new adventures to boldly proclaim Christ everywhere and anywhere; even if we have never been there before!
What is the story about the 72 we just heard about in St. Luke’s Gospel? Who are they? Where did they come from? Why did Jesus select them to go out and proclaim the Kingdom of God? Were they afraid or excited? Did they go joyfully? Did they understand all the instructions Jesus gave them?
We do not know the 72. In fact, we are not sure if it was indeed 72; it could have been 70 or some other number. The number is given to us so we can understand that Jesus is sending out proclaimers to all the people; to all the nations! We do not know if they were afraid or excited but we do know that they returned to Jesus with great joy!
This indicates to us that they must have followed the instructions of Jesus and the result was good fruit. After all, they proclaimed the “kingdom of God is at hand” and they took with them a message of peace. Surely, this was good news for all who took the message in with open hearts. But we should also conclude that not everyone received the message and accepted it. That’s o.k. too; Jesus gives them instructions for that reality as well. Here the message is clear; be faithful to what I am asking you to do and do not worry about being successful.
We also hear in today’s Gospel the line about the harvest being abundant and laborers few. This was true then and remains true today. Again we see an emphasis on faithfulness and not success; at least success as the world measures success. This line is often used as a clarion call about vocations; specifically to ordained or religious life.
Let’s talk about this for a moment for all too often every discussion about religious vocations takes a somber tone. While it is true we always need more vocations we many times miss the good news here. In our own archdiocese we just ordained six new Priests who began their brand new assignments this very weekend. Next year looks good too as we also just ordained five new Deacons; these men are known as Transitional Deacons because they are continuing on to the Priesthood! If it be the will of God these five new Transitional Deacons will be ordained Priests next June. By the way Transitional Deacons and Permanent Deacons make up the one diaconate; the difference is that Permanent Deacons, usually married, remain deacons while Transitional Deacons continue to prepare for Priesthood. Despite the devastating flood in March our own St. Joseph Abbey is experiencing record enrollment and the same is true of Notre Dame Seminary on Carrollton Ave in New Orleans. And there is great hope here as our Archbishop, Gregory Aymond, continues to emphasize religious vocations as part of his ministry as Bishop!. Several years ago, right here in St. Jane Parish we had a visit from a young Priest from Africa who shared with us that he was one of 47 men ordained on the same day. He even shared with us that these Priests from Africa were willing to come to America and help us meet the many needs of Catholics in our own country. There are many hopeful signs of an increase to religious vocations across our country and even in places like Africa, Asia and South America. However, Jesus’ words still ring out: the laborers are few.
This is our challenge this week as we pray for vocations and we respond to how Jesus is calling us to go out from this very Mass. We can evangelize and proclaim God’s kingdom and the teachings of Jesus where we are planted. At work, school, home, our neighborhoods and community we can be that example of what being a follower, a disciple really looks like. And we can talk with and pray with others who truly need to hear a word about God’s love for them. And we can be a steadfast people in encouraging, praying for and fostering vocations; starting in our own families and among our own friends and parishioners.
And perhaps among some of us gathered here today are those called to travel to areas of the world that still needs to hear the Good News. Maybe some one today will be challenged to boldly go to another country and minister to the needs of the people while proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
And when we return, even when we return every week for our next Mass, we should be full of joy as we embrace the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel: your name will be written in Heaven.
With great joy we remember that Jesus calls us to be faithful and to worry less about being successful. And as we celebrate our Independence Day we pray that we will always be able to practice our faith and rejoice in true freedom, yes true freedom, which only comes from God above. We pray that we will return to a day where real religious liberty allows us to never be forced to violate God's laws or our beloved Catholic faith to conform ourselves to the many evil laws of man. And we pray as we celebrate this 4th of July that this nation that God has truly blessed, will quit turning away from Him and become the land that blesses Him. America must return to blessing and praising God!
So we all agree that we will go forth today, sent by the same Jesus who sent the 72, to boldly go where we have never gone before, even if it be a galaxy far, far away and boldly proclaim: The Kingdom of God is at hand! This is the kingdom, where we will be truly free!!