Nicole Trahan Homily from Giving Voice 2013

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…” says our God through the prophet of today’s first reading. The message is one of hope – Rejoice for what God will do for you. 

The people who originally head this message had just returned from exile – nothing was the same as it was before – nothing was as they expected it to be. We can imagine that there was a temptation to despair – to loose hope. But God speaks to them words of comfort, hope and joy. 

A good message for us – we know that God also speaks to us a message of hope, of joy, of comfort. Also, God works through us that we might bring comfort, hope and joy to others. 

That may be a good synopsis of why many of us entered religious life – to allow God to continue to work through us – comforting those who despair or who are loosing hope – to bring to all people the message of God’s love – so that all people might rejoice. 

We are told in our Gospel that we are called by Jesus to do this as lambs among wolves. For many years, when I was younger, I believed that statement to be mostly about facing hostility from the people “out there” who look to attack and perhaps devour – I saw it as a call to a type of martyrdom. And it is. But I’ve come to realize this from a new perspective. 

We know that the story of the sending of the 72 only appears in Luke’s Gospel – the Gospel of the – the Gospel written for the poor, marginalized, the forgotten, and neglected. 

The statement, “Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves…” is a call to be the – a call to vulnerability – to poverty. This is how we are to approach our ministry, our prayer, our lives. Without the “money bag” of substantial material resources or the security of a large number of sisters… Perhaps without the “sack” of large institutions or outdated structures… Without being clothed in the “sandals” of prestigious titles or positions of formal power and authority. 

Now, certainly, I am not advocating an imprudent course of action. For in Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ sending of the 12, Jesus cautions that they should be “Shrewd as serpents and simple as doves…” However, we have to ask ourselves whether or not our measures of security or our conceptual structures keep us from responding to the real, concrete needs of our world in the way we are called and in the way our Foundresses and Founders would have hoped. 

To be like lambs among wolves – completely vulnerable and poor… in other words, completely dependent on God in whom we have placed our trust and promised our lives – and to live interdependently with our sisters and brothers… 

Pope Francis, when addressing the media shortly after his election, stated, “How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!” For it is in this poverty that one recognizes our need for God and for one another… the necessity of interdependence. 

Jesus sent out the 72 in pairs. This is a tremendously important detail on which to reflect as we consider our call to mission and ministry in the 21st Century. We cannot, nor should we try to, do this alone. Community is key – I’m not only speaking of the communities in which we live or the community that is our Congregations – but inter-Congregational, lay/religious, male/female, cleric/non. Being insular, solitary, or territorial in our approach to ministry is a disservice to those with whom and for whom we serve. 

Speaking personally, as a member of a very small, international and older Congregation, I have had to look to our Marianist Brothers for peer support, partnership in ministry an co-workers in mission. And this has been one of the most enriching and life-giving aspects of my ministerial life. And… it’s prophetic. Oh, that the Church could better witness to male-female collaboration and equality within the institution! 

In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul encourages us to see beyond that which could divide us, “For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation…” A new creation – God is inviting us to collaborate in this new creation. 

So, I propose that we consider 3 things in light of our readings today: 

  1. How does our presence bring comfort, hope and joy? 
  2. In what ways are we called to greater poverty and vulnerability – both as individuals and as Congregations? 
  3. How might we build the interdependent relationships that will nurture our spirits, challenge us in mission, and ultimately contribute to building a Church that is poor and for the poor.

I assure you, I will be exploring these questions myself. Perhaps we can explore them together. Let us be open to the guidance of the Spirit in that. Amen.