How about a new homily? This one from June 15, 2008…

The diaconate formation process, that is… the time you spend at the seminary preparing to become a deacon, was, for the most part, a pretty humbling experience for me. But I had one experience that was not at all humbling. A few days after I was ordained as a deacon, some of my classmates and I were asked to go on Boston Catholic Television and talk about what it was like to become a deacon. At the studio, we were in awe of the big lights and cameras surrounding us as we sat with the interviewer in a wide semi-circle. Before we knew it, without much preparation, there was a man behind one of the cameras counting down with his fingers… three, two, one… and the light turned red. The interviewer began by asking each of us to describe “our calling”, our personal story of how we felt called… chosen… to become deacons. So, one by one, each of us in the semi-circle told his respective story. Each story was more impressive and colorful than the one before it. I’m sure everyone was thinking, “hey, I’m on TV… my story has to be really, really compelling and really, really good… ‘cause you know, I’m on TV…”

The readings we just heard tell us about those who have been called forth. Those who have been chosen. Those who have been hand picked out of a crowd and given a very special task. After all, how awesome it is to be called out. To be among the chosen and the selected.

[Call out 4 people to stand, including celebrant.]

In today’s Gospel from Matthew, we hear about the twelve disciples. For the first time, this week… when I pondered and prayed over these readings, I was moved toward a completely different perspective on the selection of the twelve. Previously, I had envisioned Jesus boldly seeking them out. Selecting them. What a great honor. What an amazing testimony to the character of these individuals to have been chosen by the Messiah, the Savior, the Christ. They must have been very, very special people.

But this time… I thought about it differently.

[To those standing:] How are you guys doing? Doing ok? Could everybody take a look at those who are standing? Take a good, long, hard look at them… You see… they have been chosen. They are… special. Frankly, I’d like to know just who they think they are… standing up there like that, while all of the rest of you are sitting down.

[To those standing:] How does it feel standing there? [“Awkward, hard, lonely”, etc…]

This time, when I contemplated the calling out of the twelve, I thought of it differently… not as glorious or impressive… but as… possibly quite difficult. These were individuals who had lives, occupations, interests, people whom they loved and people who loved them. Maybe they liked their lives as they were. Who knows… maybe the fishing business wasn’t so bad. Or maybe they preferred to blend in and not stick out. Maybe they were just like [names of individuals standing] or like you and me.

I do wonder, though, if there was something missing in their lives, however. I wonder if they longed for something else, something more. I wonder if they were searching… in the way some of us are searching. And I wonder if that made them more open to hearing the call…

In reality, we don’t know. We don’t know much at all about the twelve and what their lives were like before Jesus called them to a special mission. This week, as I thought about this, I wondered if their lives, but for the separation of some several centuries, could have been much more like our own lives than it might seem.

Maybe it was difficult to have been chosen. As he chose the twelve, Jesus certainly promised them no glory… not in this life anyways. Later on he would say to them: “If you want to follow me, pick up your cross and follow me.” That sounds hard. Awkward. Lonely.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

The entire first section of the Bible tells the story of a chosen people. In our first reading today, God tells them that they will be his “special possession”. Special yes, but that does not mean that they would be better than any other. What it does mean is that they were called to play a special role in God’s revelation… they were called to be instruments of salvation.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

Jesus himself was drawn to the lost sheep. The Gospel tells us that his heart was moved with great pity for them. These twelve, whom he had taught and prepared, were ready only now to truly begin their work. They were ready… prompted by the pity Jesus felt for others. The twelve chosen ones are given their true mission. Their purpose. Jesus did not empower them to be powerful, he empowered them to serve humbly.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

This is precisely where Church comes from. It does not spring forth from the mighty. It does not proceed from the advantaged or the privileged. It is not built upon the shoulders of kings or even prophets. It comes from the humble few… those who might start out with awkwardness, or difficulty, loneliness, longing, or doubt. But who find courage and inspiration and a willingness to continue onward.

Would each person who is standing, please ask four others to stand also?

All of us… are a chosen people. Every one of us has been called. We are the “special possession”. And though we have been called, it does not mean that we are better, mightier, holier, superior, more impressive, more important, more anything than anyone else. What it does mean is that we are called to play a special role in God’s revelation… we are called to be instruments of salvation.

Would each person who is standing, please seek out any remaining lost sheep and ask them to stand with us?

This is where Church comes from… for we know that a humble and imperfect few can do great, great things.

As lost sheep who have been found… as God’s special possession, as those who gain salvation because we are called forth… let us together, as Church… proclaim with confidence all that we believe in.

[Profession of Faith…]

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