ILast year, when I was at the Laos airport, I saw a young couple, perhaps in their mid or late twenties filled with tattoos on their arms, legs and neck. While I was curious as to what were tattooed on their bodies, I did not get close enough as they were in a queue some distance away from me. However, to my surprise, when I got onto the plane, the young man, let us call him Dave sat in an isles seat just beside me. To my greater surprise one of the tattooed images was a person stabbing himself in the chest with a huge dagger and with the words, “I hate myself!”
Other than their tattoos the couple looked normal, but I felt sad for both of them. We all know that removing tattoos is a very painful process of burning of the skin. So, it seems to me that for Dave to tattoo “I hate myself” on his body, he must be somewhat convinced that for the rest of his life, he is going to “hate himself.” Such a sad, empty and meaningless life is never God’s Will for us, when He created us.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus missioned His disciples to proclaim the Good News of “Peace, True Peace” to all peoples. He said to His disciples, “Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. . .” It is very clear from today’s Gospel that Jesus’ mission is to bring “True Peace” to the whole world. And this “True Peace” is the fulfilling of His Father’s Will that every person will eventually gain eternal life and happiness.
And so, the basic question that each of us is challenged to answer today is, “Do we have this True Peace in our hearts and homes” that Jesus wants us to have? If we do, then it is equally important that we reflect on the second connected question, “How deep is this ‘True Peace’? The depth of this “Peace” can be sensed from the quality of our daily living, which is the quality of whether we are living a Christ-centred life or self-centred life that is distanced from God.
However, if we strangely don’t want this “True Peace” then, one of two things is probably happening to us. We may be denying the reality of our need for this “True Peace” in our life or we may be so numbed and lost in life that we are actually drifting into the sad, empty and meaningless life that Dave and his girlfriend are living. And, today’s Gospel is challenging us to get out of this sad state of our lives today before it is too late.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, for some of us Jesus is today challenging us to get out of our sad, empty and meaningless life and turn back to the Christ-centred way of living. But, for others, Jesus is challenging us to be His disciples of bringing this “Peace” to every house we go to and every person we meet in our daily living. How do we go about doing this, you may ask? Some illustrations might help.
Kathryn Kuhlman was a well-known Methodist healing evangelist who captured the hearts of her millions of followers between the 1940s to the 1970s. Kathryn’s mother was a harsh disciplinarian, who showed little love or affection. However, she had an extremely close and loving relationship with her father. When her father came home from work, she would hang on his leg and cling to him. She often said that her relationship with God the Father was extremely real because of her relationship with her own father.
When she married Burroughs Waltrip, a divorcee, who deceived her into marrying her, her world came crashing down. She eventually gave up her church in Denver, lost some of her closest associates; her life was a disaster. In 1944, feeling the marriage was the biggest mistake of her life, she left Waltrip who eventually divorced her in 1947. In spite of her own pain and struggles in her life, Kathryn was able to transcend them and love those in need intensely.
Her biographer, Jamie Buckingham says, “I saw her, on dozens of occasions, take a child that was lame, maybe paralysed from birth, and hug that child to her breast with the love of a mother. I am convinced she would have, at any moment required of her, given her life in exchange for that child’s healing.
Kathryn would hug bleary-eyed alcoholics and mix her tears with theirs. And the prostitutes who came to her meetings, with tears smearing their mascra, knew that if they could but touch her, they would have touched the love of God. And those little old women, hobbling along on canes and crutches, some of whom couldn’t even speak the English language, but were drawn by the universal language of love.
No man could have ever loved like that. It took a woman, bereft of the love of a man, her womb barren, to love as she loved. Out of her emptiness – she gave. To be replenished by the only lover she was allowed to have – the Holy Spirit. (Adapted from Jamie Buckingham.)
My sisters and brothers in Christ, when Jesus in today’s Gospel missioned His seventy-two disciples to proclaim the Good News of Salvation that brings “True Peace” to all peoples, He cautioned them that He is sending them “like lambs amongst wolves.” He also advised them that if they are to proclaim the Gospel effectively, then they are to “Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals and salute no one on the road.” In other words, to proclaim the Gospel, we need to be detached from the material things, relationships and comforts of life and be single-minded in carrying out the mission that Jesus has given them.
Is this asking too much from us? Before we answer this question, let us remember that it is Jesus Himself who is asking us to be detached from things, relationships and comforts so that His Holy Spirit can first fill our hearts with His “True Peace”; a “Peace” that is deep and divine; a “Peace” that empowers us to go beyond our pains and trials of life like Kathryn Kuhlman and love in Christ-like ways?
Finally, let us remind ourselves that Jesus wants you and I to be His disciples of “True Peace” to all peoples in our daily living; a “Peace” that the secular world cannot give; the secular world of sadness, meaninglessness and emptiness that people like Dave and his girlfriend are drawn into.
Are we willing to take up the challenge? Are we able to see that such an invitation from Jesus is a privilege? Do we have the wisdom to say “Yes Lord, send me?” or Are we going to brush aside the truth that “the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few”. . . that millions of people in this world who are hungering for this “True Peace” of Jesus cannot experience it just because we choose to continue to live a lukewarm and complacent Catholic Christian life, instead of choosing to live a more active faith . . . in our daily living . . . in our Parish participation . . . and in our prayer life?
To conclude let us note that those of our parishioners who have tried hard to evangelise and bring people to our RCIA and RCIY programme have experienced this fulfilment to be true . . . for themselves and for those who have begun to reflect on having the “True Peace” of God in our lives . . . others have experienced this in their active participation in our Parish “NCC” (Neighbourhood Christian Community) programme . . . still others have been touched by the “True Peace” of encountering Christ in Eucharistic Adoration, our Parish DVC Youth programme, Bible studies, the different Parish Social Mission projects for the poor and needy, and the like . . .
In short, Jesus is challenging us to be active in the living of our faith . . . be involved . . . be transformed . . . and be Jesus’ disciples of “True Peace” in your daily living . . . for “the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few.”
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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