It struck me at the beginning that we are observing the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Yet reality is that there’s nothing ordinary about the time. I’m not sure there ever is anything ordinary about the time – in the sense of if not all time has a character of being extraordinary – in the sense that we’re always dealing with the unexpected, with the surprises that God places in our way.
And certainly the idea of God surprising us is very much a part of the scripture for this 12th Sunday. The first reading – Jeremiah. Jeremiah – who has been anointed by God to deliver God’s word to the people – is constantly surprised by the reaction he gets: a reaction that basically puts him ever at risk. He’s imprisoned. There are those who would try to kill him. He must tell the people about in a sense trusting in God by placing themselves in God’s hands as they are led off into captivity. And so, in a sense, he is a person who must deal with fear – the fear for his own personal life, but he’s only able to deal with that because he has encountered the Lord. And because he has encountered the Lord, he trusts. And he trusts that even though he doesn’t understand – he can’t comprehend, for the most part, God’s plan. He’s able to trust – he’s able to trust, because in his own way, he has come to know God.
The result of the encounter – when you come to the Gospel, you see a similar situation: Jesus is preparing to send the disciples out. It’s referred to in Matthew, which is referred to as the Discipleship section. The homily that He gives teaching and as He prepares them to go out, He prepares them not for celebration, not for joy, not for all kinds of laurels that be thrown at them, but He prepares them for the fact that they will experience difficulty. They will experience struggle. They will be challenged. And basically what He’s calling them to is trust.
That trust I think is based on the fact that prior to this point in Matthew’s Gospel, they have encountered the Lord. They have been with Him. They’ve walked with Him. They’ve journeyed with Him. They’ve been with Him day and they’ve been with Him night. They’ve seen not only the wonderful things He has done, but they’ve seen the power of His word. And He basically is now building off of that because He’s saying trust, trust in the father, who I have introduced you, to trust in the Father who I have allowed you to encounter through me, and find in that trust the courage to go forward. The courage to do the work of God, even though it won’t always be clear to you. It won’t always be in a sense laid out to you, like one of those great plans that we often come up with that usually lasts about three seconds, because of all the extraordinary things that get in the way.
And so trust is a critical component of faith. You go to that second reading – Saint Paul to the Romans.It’s also about trust – trust the God who loves you, trust the God who has redeemed you, trust the God who has opened the door for you to a new life. As we live through, excuse me, as we live through the extraordinary events of our own day, we know that fear is very much a part of everyone’s life at this moment. The fear that produces all the anxiety that is there, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
Tomorrow, we enter Stage Two here in New York City. What will it bring? Who knows? Will it bring a new threat, in the sense of a new expression or some new component of the virus manifesting itself? Will it in a sense cause more difficulties, more struggles? Who knows? We’ll do the best we can, because we can. But I think the thing that will again make the difference is the extent that we trust: we trust in God to give us the strength to be able to deal with whatever the extraordinary events are.
You know, for the past few Fridays I’ve been going out to the pop-ups that Catholic Charities has been running – excuse me – the pop-ups for food distribution, and one of the things that’s amazing there – you want to see how trust, how trust gets built among people?It’s amazing to see the trust that’s manifested by the people who come as volunteers. They come into settings that basically we invite them to, but they don’t know what they’re coming into. They don’t know what the neighborhoods are for the most part or anything. They don’t know who they’re going to be meeting. They don’t know who they’re going to be reacting or interacting with. And yet, they come.
They come because they trust, and it’s not that they trust in Catholic Charities – I’m not sure anybody trusts in Catholic Charities. It’s just life as it goes on. But I think they come because they trust in God, and so we always open with some type of a prayer service. And you can see their engagement in that they trust that God is calling them to give expressions of love to those who are in need. God is calling them to be God’s hands in the midst of these extraordinary times.
In a sense, I think that is really the great lesson that is placed before us. That trust is going to give us the ability, the strength, the courage to do what God is asking us to do: to be God’s hands in the midst of these very difficult times. And through that, to be support – support that manifests God’s love by that phone call you make to that person – the elderly person who’s in a sense isolated in their home. The fact that you come with Father Bill on Thursday mornings or on Fridays to help with the food distributions. The fact that you are wearing a mask and following the rules of social distancing, because you have care and concern for others.
You trust, you trust that God has called us – not only to be connected with God, but that God has called us to be connected with one another.