He sent them out two by two

Image source

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

What did you do to get ready to come to church today?

Did you shower after a morning walk or run or bike ride?
Were you up early enough that you made a change clothes for church?
Did you change your shoes? comb your hair? put on make-up?

Did you check to make sure you had your wallet or purse
with your driver’s license and (I hope) something for the collection?

Did you grab that grocery list from the kitchen counter
because you’re going shopping after Mass?

What did you need to do to get your kids ready for church?
What did they need to take in the car for the ride here?
If you have an infant, what did you need to pack to come to Mass?

What lights or appliances did you check before leaving the house?
Did your pets require any attention before you left for church?
Did you check to make sure you had your cell phone?
Did you lock the doors of your house before you left?

All of those are simple, ordinary chores to take care of
before leaving home to come here to pray.
But those little tasks also give us some clues
about how connected, even tied we are
to our clothing and appearance, our possessions, our property,
our money, our “things” in general,
things that are part and parcel of our daily lives.

That little exercise of recalling what we did
just to come to church today,
might help us understand the detail in Jesus’ instructions
as he sends out the 12, his closest followers to preach the gospel.

He tells them,
Take nothing for the journey -- except a walking stick and sandals.
No food! No backpack for carrying things!
No change of clothes! No money!
And these guys weren’t just going down the street to go to church:
they were setting out, on foot, to distant towns and villages,
with no hotel reservations and no credit cards in their pockets.

Jesus is calling them to a radical dependence on God
and on God’s providing for whatever they might need along the way.

The apostles weren’t wealthy to begin with,
so their possessions would have been few.
But Jesus asks them to let go even the little they have
so that nothing would distract them from their appointed task.

The gospel may not demand exactly the same of us
but it certainly does call us to take some inventory of our “stuff”
or more importantly, to survey our dependence on our possessions.

It’s one thing to have a lot of things, gadgets and toys,
it’s another thing altogether to believe we can’t live without them.

Compare the apostles setting out with nothing, to preach the gospel,
with the preparations and supplies we need
just to set out on an average day in our lives...

Compare our dependence on our possessions
(and our desire to have more and more)
with Jesus’ call to live with only what we truly need.

How many of us could imagine setting out for even one day,
taking nothing with us:
No food… No backpack, purse, wallet or brief case…
No change of clothes… No phone, iPad or laptop..
No money, check book or credit cards…

Jesus’ friends set out on a journey, taking nothing with them.
Could we set out for just one day, taking nothing with us?
Could we set out on one vacation day, taking nothing with us?

If you find that a prospect easy to consider – rejoice! –
for you are closer to the kingdom of God than the rest of us.

St. Paul reminded us today that we are
blessed, chosen, loved, forgiven, and redeemed
- that we are God’s own possession.

But can we come to know and believe any of this in any real way
when our lives and days are so cluttered with our possessions,
our things, our stuff, our attachment to and dependence on
all that we have and all that we want?

Perhaps these summer days, especially vacation time,
might offer an opportunity for us to set out for a day,
just one day,
taking along nothing (or next to nothing) with us.

Every time we gather at this altar we’re reminded
that Jesus took nothing with him to the Cross
-- except his love for each of us.

And we’re reminded that the food for our journey
is as simple as it could possibly be:
a morsel of Bread become Christ’s Body
and a sip from a Cup, a share in his Blood:
simple food, offered in simple ways
to nourish us in depending only
on what we truly need.


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 


  1. so, I think we could say that we have to take care of some things before we go to Mass-
    but also, in taking care of them, we need to LET GO of them-

    I needed to let go of something before going to Mass this weekend-

    something that I hang on to every day, all day-
    not because I like it, but because, I think, I NEED it-
    to keep me safe, somehow-

    that "thing" is my FEAR.

    thank you for helping me see that in letting go, at least a little bit, of what I think I need, that actually helped me to open up my heart-
    open up something inside of me-
    to trust-
    to find the strength, somehow, to keep believing-
    and keep trying-

    oh, yes, my fear is still with me-
    very much-

    but, I plan on trying to let go at least a little bit of it to reach out-
    to ask for help-
    to take a step-

  2. I look forward to the end of your homily (not because of boredom!)...I love the way you connect the Word of God with Sacrament stressing that they are both important to our spiritual vitality.

  3. Austin, I think the spelling is Bishop Ken Untener.


  4. Thanks, Anne. As you know, I almost invariably end my homilies in the same fashion. I do that because I believe it's the homily's function to break open the Word for our nourishment at one table (the ambo)and to give us reason to move to the second table (the altar) with praise and thanksgiving.

    I'm also heavily influenced in this regard by the late Bishop Ken Untener who asked me years ago (at a Notre Dame football game victory party!) if I "preached Christ crucified" as 1 Cor 1:23 urges us to do. He shared with me how he always made it a point to do so at weddings, celebrating a sacrament in which the bride and groom pledge to be a living sign of Christ's love for the Church.

    Just about all my homilies end (or include) reference to the sacrifice of Christ and how we share in that sacrifice at the altar/table of Eucharist.

    I'm ever grateful to Ken Untener for that conversation!

  5. Thanks, Rosemary - I was a victim of auto-correct!

  6. The fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary time coincided with the start of Scout camp, where we have spares for spares. We were very concerned about every last detail of packing enough of the right stuff, just for a week! This homily makes you stop in your tracks and think. I can't image just going out not prepared. Even on the way up to camp we had all the electronic gadgets to make life easy. I'm really going to have to pray on this one....as I have somehow crossed over to having, or depending on way too much stuff....
    Thanks ....

  7. I believe "preaching Christ crucified" embraces more than making mention of the altar/table and sacrifice/meal at the end of a homily. I suspect those who truly preach Christ crucified live the life Paul lived, as he described in 2 Corinthians 4.



Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!