15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - The Walking Stick of Faith

The Scriptures speak to us today about election, about being chosen by God to be His instruments and witnesses, and about putting our trust in His presence and power to accomplish our mission.  

Amos protested that he was a shepherd and no prophet, but the Lord commanded him nonetheless: "Go and prophesy to my people Israel." God was saying "Trust me!"  Paul was a zealous Jew who set out to seek and destroy members of the new Christian sect when he was knocked off his horse, rendered blind and helpless, and then sent out to preach the Gospel. God was saying rather dramatically: "Trust me!"

The Twelve were sent out on their mission of preaching repentance and conversion with strict orders to take nothing with them except a walking stick...again it was clearly the Lord's way of saying: "Trust me!"

The walking stick can be a powerful image of the gift of faith that we receive in baptism. We make our journey supported by this gift. And God reminds us over and over again: "my grace is sufficient for you..." We tend to want to clutter up our lives and carry a lot of extra baggage - just in case - because we are always tempted to think that we are to succeed because of our effort, our resources. It is hard for us to let go - really hard for us to trust God totally. Often we think that our faithfulness and our effectiveness as disciples is the result of our own prayers and good works. We begin to grow proud and independent. That's when we get into trouble; it is then that the dark moments of failure and weakness, of doubt and fear come. 

We have to bottom out, and recognize our powerlessness before we allow the Lord to take over.

If the Christian religion has something worthwhile to say to a contemporary world that is fast becoming more and more dismissive of many of Christianity's traditional images, language, and claims, then this "something worthwhile" has to be found in the preaching of Jesus. And as his followers, we must be able to articulate this preaching with clarity and enthusiasm.

Jesus' preaching reflected his basic religious convictions. He believed that his understanding of God would be "good news" for people. He shared his convictions that this would be good news for the poor, that it would bring sight to those who were blind, bring freedom to those who were held captive and would set free those who were on the fringe and downtrodden.

This is the mission that the Twelve were sent to accomplish. It is our mission as well. We need to constantly remember where Jesus was coming from, to reflect upon where we ourselves are coming from, and to place our complete trust in His promise.

To be consistently persons of faith who take seriously - in all circumstances - that promise, we must be constantly nourished by Word and Sacrament. We come together to the Table always conscious of our frailty, our infidelity, our selfishness and pride. We come as pilgrims and sinners. But we come as persons aware that we have been sealed with the Spirit, persons redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Christ.  

We come because we believe that the Lord sends us forth week after week to be his prophets, his healers, his peacemakers. Despite all of our protests of unworthiness and ineptitude, the Lord reassures us. "Go", He says "take nothing with you, except the walking stick of faith... my grace will make you effective witnesses and faithful disciples... Trust me!"