Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Pierre Henry Buisson
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
June 14, 2020

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my
strength and my Redeemer.

“Pray with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” I think I heard this saying first when I was a freshman in my French Seminary. It was good advice, even though I did not always follow it. It’s so much easier and comforting to pray only with the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer. Or to pray without a book at all. It’s comforting because most of the time, isolated in my little bubble, it’s all about God and me, me and God. But is it enough? Is it even what I should do as a follower of Jesus? Struggling with these questions brought back memories.

Like when I used to go on retreats in monasteries and abbeys. Nuns and Monks were spending their lives away from the world, however I learned that the world was not absent of their minds and their lives. They knew what was happening around them, and they were bringing the problems of the world, the sufferings of the world, to the Lord, presenting all these sufferings in their prayer.

Sometimes I have been so overwhelmed, so distraught, by the news, that I did not want to know what was happening around me anymore. It was a way to protect myself, but it was also playing chicken. If I don’t know what is happening around me, in my country, and in the world, how could I give thanks for all the things great and small which make this world a better place and are evidence that the Kingdom of God has come near, indeed? If I don’t know what is happening around me, if I’m not aware of the sufferings and injustices of my neighbor, how could I present to the Lord the events, injustices, and sufferings which are not part of the dream of God for us? How could I intercede and pray for a better
world?

As we are still living under the pandemic, and its consequences, death, fear, unemployment, social distancing, these last weeks we have also been witnessing protests and unfortunately riots, all around the country after the death of George Floyd when he was arrested. It could be tempting and easy to deny the existence of racism and injustice in our country. Unfortunately, we can’t. Some of us might be shocked by the name of the movement which is spreading all around our country, and all around the world, Black Lives Matter, because for us all lives matter. But it appears that in some places, in some states, in many circumstances, Black lives are not as important as White lives are. Yes, I still strongly believe as a Christian that all lives matter, but right now many Black lives are in danger, many black lives are threatened by the sin of racism. I read somewhere that to understand this, you just have to think about firefighters: all homes matter for them, but when they go to a neighborhood fighting a fire, suddenly only the house on fire matters. For me, for me, this is an invitation to look around me with open eyes. This is an invitation to look for and to discover what are the causes of the problem. This is an invitation to look around me, to look to those who are suffering or those who are unjustly treated or
exploited with the way Jesus used to look at people: with compassion. Meaning, with love and understanding. I believe that when I am able to look with compassion at those who suffer, I’m seeing them with the eyes of Christ. This is, for me, the only way to see others for what they are: my beloved siblings in Christ, beloved children of God who created us all equal. Jesus became one of us to reconcile all humankind with God, and all human beings with each other.

As long as a brother or a sister in humanity is suffering, as long as a brother or a sister has no voice, I am not really at peace. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians that when one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer with it. (1 Co 12:26) So, my opening statement, “Pray with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,” was really good advice. I know that I can’t keep what is happening in the world around me out of my prayer life. Even if I cannot change anything, I can at least change my heart, and I can present the situation to the Lord. Lord, open my eyes, and help me to see the sufferings of my brothers and sisters in humanity. Lord, I present them to you. Lord, help me to help them. Lord give me your Spirit of love and compassion.

But, be warned: prayer can be dangerous! Because God is listening!

Look at the Gospel. Jesus asked the disciples to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers to the harvest. And just after Jesus sent the same disciples in mission for the first time.

And that brings back my second memory. In 1989, the year I was ordained a deacon, my bishop of the time declared a year of prayer for vocations. Each individual, ministry, family, were invited to pray at least once a week to ask the Master of the Harvest to send laborers in the field. The entire catholic diocese was praying to have priests, deacons, brothers and sisters… I will never know how successful this prayer was. But what I know for a fact, is that some people were not really praying as the bishop asked us. Yes, with their lips they were asking: Lord send laborers to the mission field. However, in
their hearts they prayed like this: Send us priests, but not my son; Send us nuns, but not my daughter; send us deacons but not me… Maybe they knew that God could take their request seriously. But, when we pray it is always about the will of God to be done, not ours.

In this Gospel there is something very important: for the first time Matthew is using the word Apostles for the group of the 12 disciples. Up to this moment these 12 men had been following Jesus. As disciples were supposed to do, they listened to his teaching, they witnessed the healings, they asked questions, they observed the growing controversies with local religious authorities. But then, they were not disciples anymore, not just followers anymore. Chosen by Jesus, they were sent on their first mission, they became Apostles, sent in the name of Jesus, as Jesus was sent by the Father. I read somewhere that to fully understand the meaning of the word Apostle, we can compare it to an envoy plenipotentiary.
Meaning, someone sent with full powers by the one in authority. And that makes sense! Look what Jesus was saying to the soon-to-be Apostles: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Can you imagine the shock for those who had only been followers? Without warning they were sent to the people of Israel to do exactly what Jesus had been doing. And they did it!

The amazing fact is that this bunch of people were just ordinary folks. They all had their shortcomings and limitations. We know that Judas would eventually betray Jesus, we know that some of them were short tempered, some were self-centered, they were uneducated, and we know that all of them abandoned Jesus during his trial. This is somehow comforting for us! They were not chosen because of their extraordinary qualities. They were chosen out of love, and Jesus gave them the force, the grace, the power, and the courage necessary to fulfill this first mission despite all of their limitations.

Like the 12, we are not just disciples. All of us, whatever our age and condition, are also apostles. We have been sent on a mission since the day of our baptism. I love the two prayers after communion in our Prayer Book when we pray the Lord to send us into the world to serve and love our neighbor. The dismissal is always a sending in mission: go forth in the name of Christ or go in peace to love and serve the Lord. We are today’s apostles, sent to love and serve the Lord, by loving and serving our neighbor. All of us, not just the ordained ministers.

Not one of us has been chosen because of our extraordinary abilities. But we have all received the gifts of the Spirit and the grace of the Lord to go and proclaim the Good News of Jesus. And there is no other way to proclaim this Good News than to proclaim with our lives that the Kingdom has come near. How to proclaim that the Kingdom has come near? By living the promises of our Baptismal Covenant, by sharing God’s love, by taking side with those who are the least of the society, by loving, helping and serving those who are being exploited, those who are suffering, those who have no hope.

Today, let us take the time to ponder what is the Lord asking us to do? What is the Lord asking me to do? What is the next good thing I can do in order to bring Christ’s love around me?

It’s not easy to be a disciple. It’s even harder to be an Apostle! But remember that we have received all the gifts, graces, and powers that we need, if only we believe in and trust the Lord who is sending us. Send me O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, transform me to be a beacon of love. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Amen!