15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Published: July 11, 2015

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during confirmation Masses at St. Michael Church in West Memphis Saturday, July 11, 2015 and St. Mary Church in Arkadelphia Sunday, July 12, 2015. He also preached this homily during the 15th anniversary celebration for Búsqueda at St. John Catholic Center in Little Rock Sunday, July 12, 2015.

Bishop Taylor

If I were to ask you who Jesus is, you'd say he's the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, fully human and fully divine, the Messiah who saves us from the power of Satan, the Redeemer whose death was the price of our freedom. He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

But until Holy Week 2,000 years ago no one knew hardly any of this. Until then, people knew Jesus only as a preacher, exorcist and healer, so when he sent his disciples out on their first mission, it was to do what he had been doing: to preach, drive out demons and heal the sick.

Mark preceded this first mission of the apostles in the Gospel you heard two weeks ago with the story of Jesus' raising of Jairus' apparently dead daughter and his healing of a woman who had been menstruating incurably for 12 years non-stop, cures that only God could work. In Judaism, all contact with corpses and menstruating women made you unclean, which is what these healings did to Jesus — voluntarily for the dead girl and involuntarily for the perpetually menstruating woman — she touched him.

Since we have been given more and understand more, we will be held to a higher standard.

And of course you couldn't be holy and unclean at the same time, yet here was Jesus who was unclean a lot — unclean also because he touched lepers and associated with unsavory characters. And then most shockingly, in today's Gospel he sends his disciples out to do the same thing. They went off and preached repentance. (They) drove out many demons and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. And next Sunday we will see that when they returned they reported all they had done and taught.

Luke reports that there was then a later mission of 72 disciples prior to that first Holy Week, and then after Pentecost we see Peter, Paul and the others doing the very same things in the Acts of the Apostles — healings and exorcisms that only God could do, preaching the Good News with courage and wisdom that could only come from God. Not only did they spend the rest of their lives doing what Jesus had done, most of them ended up dying a martyr's death like Jesus, so united had they become to Jesus their Savior.

You and I are disciples of Jesus every bit as much as they were and we know far more about him than they did prior to that first Holy Week. Since we have been given more and understand more, we will be held to a higher standard. What God expects of us today is essentially the same as it has always been: That we preach conversion, that we proclaim the truth with courage, that we banish evil with prayer, that we cure the sick with healing love — the things that only God can do, but as we see in the Scriptures, God can and wants to do them through us.

And to do so, we will sometimes find ourselves dealing with seemingly unclean people, people we find repulsive, who make us feel unclean and look unclean to others — voluntarily or involuntarily. But that's what spending the rest of our lives doing what Jesus had done requires, and in so doing we too will become ever more intimately united to Jesus, our Savior, already in this life and most fully in the life to come.