25 June 2017 12th
Sunday in Ordinary Time Princeton, NJ
Good afternoon. You may have noticed that we are back to wearing green vestments – something you
have not seen on a Sunday since February 26th
. And it is a reminder that we have reentered Ordinary
Time of our Liturgical year. The name given to this period is not to connote a time that is plain or
‘ordinary’ but to simply tell us that these are the Sundays that are numbered – or given an ordinal
number. And for the next 21 weeks of Ordinary Time, until mid-November, we will walk through the
Gospel of Matthew.
The Gospel writer, Matthew, is a convert writing to a community of Jewish Christians – who feel the
wounds of being rejected by the Jews. So throughout his Gospels we will often find Jesus in conflict with
the Scribes and Pharisees as he breaks away from certain Jewish beliefs as gives new meaning and
weight to many of the Judaic Laws. And at the end of his Gospel, Matthew summarizes it by giving us the
direction that we are to go and make disciples of all the nations.
And so it has been - that during the Easter Season, through the sprinkling rite at the beginning of each
mass – we have reminded of our baptismal waters and of our calling to be a disciple of Christ. Thus as
we come out of that Liturgical Season into Ordinary Time it is no surprise that today’s Gospel finds us in
the middle of Matthew’s 10th
chapter - which is often called the Discourse on the Mission – for it is
focused on the selection and job description for the disciples. We will hear more of it next week, but
allow me to go back a few lines so that you have a greater context as to what the disciples were called to
Disciples were to find those who are lost…to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and drive
out demons. They were not to take any payment and matter of fact were told not to take any extra
clothes, shoes or even a walking stick – and for housing, they were to find a home of a worthy person
and to stay there. They were warned that they will be disliked and will be handed over to authorities and
will be hated because of their teachings of Jesus. And Christ is pretty clear that as they go forth
preaching the Gospel they will experience persecution and rejection by their own people. I don’t know
about you – but this does not sound like an appealing ministry.
But then again are we really surprised? After all, today’s Gospel reinforces what we already know - that
being a disciple is not that easy…living a life rooted in Christ is not that easy…standing up for those
living on the margins, those who are persecuted, those who are living in fear – is not easy.
And did you pick up a common theme within that description of being a disciple? It is all about the need
for us to let go…let go of our fears…to let go of trying to be in control…to let go of the need for power,
prestige, and possessions…to let go of the need for our small self to be important. And instead, to just
be who you really are in God and thus, as Matthew writes earlier in his Gospel – to build your house on
But, for most, all that letting go of being in control feels more like suffering. But it would seem that some
form of suffering is absolutely necessary, since the ego does not surrender without a fight to its death.
But this form of suffering teaches us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control
back to God, freeing us to be present in the here and now.
Another term we use for this surrendering is the paschal mystery - which is the pattern of transformation.
Indeed - it is a mystery and not logical at all – for it seems that the best formulae for growth and
transformation is through the many times in our lives that we experience death and rising.
1 Deacon Jim Knipper
And it is these times that we feel we are living in some form of darkness. But as both John of the Cross
and Gerald May point out in their own descriptions of "the dark night of the soul," God teaches the soul
most profoundly through darkness – and not just light. For we only need enough light to be able to trust
the darkness. Trials and tribulations and darkness all teach us how to trust in a very practical way that a
good and loving God is always guiding us. I don't need to have perfect certainty before I take the next
Over these past two months I have had the opportunity to re-witness the wonder of how a child learns to
walk – as I watched my grandson Bodhi start to take his first steps – by beginning to hold on to us with
one hand and learning to let go in order to take a few steps before falling. But time and again he had the
faith that those of us surrounding him would provide help and protection – which allowed him the faith to
pick himself up and to continue practicing placing one foot in front of the other. Bodhi quickly learned that
each mis-step he made in learning to walk helped him the next time he got back up to his feet.
Likewise…we need to remember that we can trust that even our mistakes will be used in our favor, if we
allow them to be...it is the way to transformative love. Darkness, mistakes, and trials are the supreme
teachers. Whereas success actually teaches you nothing; it just feels good.
But twice in today’s Gospel we are reminded to not be afraid! For we know that there will be darkness in
our days – but Christ will be there as our light. There will be times when we will find ourselves in scary
stillness, but Christ will be there, with a whisper in our ear. Christ knows all of our wants, our desires, our
thoughts, our pains, our joys, our needs and our fears – and even the number of hairs on our head.
So this week, I invite you to take some time to examine what space you are living in. Where is the
darkness in your life? Where is the light? Where are the voids in your life? What are you afraid of?
Make the time to remember the words that are repeated by Jesus over and over again in the Gospels –
Do not be afraid. Do not waste time obsessing over what has happened in the past or fretting and trying
to control what will happen in the future. Instead be open to the present…be open to true discipleship…
be open to the mistakes in your life – without fearing the grace-filled darkness – for it just may be the
best teacher you ever have had.
2 Deacon Jim Knipper