Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Mass of the Holy Spirit for Chancery Staff – September 12, 2017

Some of you may have followed news related to a unique gathering of Catholics earlier this summer in Orlando, Florida.  The Convocation of Catholic Leaders found representatives from most every diocese in the United States, including your truly and a dozen representatives of the Diocese of Scranton, gathered together for four days of prayer, study, reflection and celebration of our faith and our call to missionary discipleship.

Simply put, the gathering focused our attention as representatives of the Church in the United States upon the heart of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – which, in so many ways, establishes his vision for the Church of the 21st century.  In his exhortation, in so many homilies and reflections and in the example of his life and ministry, Pope Francis challenges us constantly to be a Church that goes out in service of the people that God places in our care – a Church that encounters Jesus and then takes that experience out into the streets to seek the lost and broken and to encounter Jesus again in those who suffer and who are in need of the love of God.  “This,” the Holy Father has said on so many occasions, “is what Jesus wants today:  missionary disciples.”

Essentially, Pope Francis is hardly taking the Church in a new direction, but rather, building upon the legacy of his predecessors particularly from Blessed Pope Paul VI to Saint John Paul II and to Pope Benedict XVI and inviting the Church to embrace a new evangelization to bring Christ to today’s world.  He’s calling all of us to be missionaries in our own communities and in our own country where so many Catholics, as one American cardinal recently said, “have stormed off, dozed off or simply drifted off from the Church.”

Today’s gospel passage from Saint Luke is a powerful reminder of what you and I, as baptized followers of Jesus, are called to do and to be as missionary disciples.  …  After considerable prayer and reflection, Jesus chose the twelve apostles from among his followers.  And immediately upon calling the apostles, Jesus brought them along as he immersed himself into the midst of a large number of suffering souls from all over the region where he lived and preached.  …  The gospel goes on to tell us that “everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.”

Note this important reality, my friends.  Jesus didn’t bring the newly chosen twelve with him to simply witness all that he could do.  They had already been given glimpses of Jesus’ unique role in salvation history.  No – Jesus brought the twelve with him to teach them what he would expect of them as his followers.  …  “As I have done, so you must do.”

What’s also so significant in today’s gospel is the fact that the twelve did not self-select themselves as Jesus’ apostles.  They were chosen by Jesus – for a purpose.  Recall from Saint John’s gospel these words that Jesus spoke quite forthrightly.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you – for a reason – so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last.”

By the grace of God, we have been baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Through the grace of God, we, in turn, have been equipped for mission – to carry the gospel message of life, hope, selfless love and service to the broken, suffering world that makes its way into our lives each day.

As we gather together in prayer this day – and as we particularly pray for all of you who are a part of the diocesan staff of this local Church of Scranton – I can’t help but think of how you respond so generously to Jesus’ mandate to serve your brothers and sisters and all who come into your lives seeking God’s loving presence and care.  Thank you for being who you are and for your willingness to be a part of this wonderful mission of service to the People of God in Scranton.

My friends, may we never underestimate the power of God working within our lives.  And may we never underestimate the blessings that flow from lives of faith-filled service.  While often we can only wonder how and why, God continually calls us – just as he called the twelve apostles in today’s gospel – and God uses our lives and the situations and circumstances that unfold within them to build his kingdom of love and peace.

So, despite the many challenges that unfold around and within us, take consolation from the Word of God proclaimed today.  When we are humble enough to respond to Jesus’ call and to give Jesus room to lead us through our journey of life, God’s grace will take hold of our hearts and God’s peace will reign within them.