12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 21, 2020
St. Mary – Derby, KS
Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33
As I mentioned, and as most of you know, my name is Fr. Michael Brungardt. I was ordained a priest by Bishop Kemme two years ago at the ripe ol’ age of twenty-five. So if you’re doing the math, you’re correct, I’m very young. But I’m very excited to be here in Derby, to be a Derbian, to follow in the shoes of some greats like Fr. Wayne. Fr. Paul Coakley, now Archbishop Coakley down in Oklahoma City, was here as an associate, if I understand correctly; he was the one that baptized me. Fr. Joe would drive out to seminary with my uncle, and knew several people in my family. And then there are many of you that I have met on and off through the years. So I already feel very welcomed, very much at home. And I look forward to getting to know many more of you over the next several years.
You know who didn’t feel welcomed? Ever? Jeremiah, the prophet Jeremiah. Talk about feeling like a stranger in his own home, an outsider in his own country. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet at a very young age (c.f., Jer 1:6). And he protested against God’s call; he started making excuses, he tried to get out of it. But God assured him that he would be with him. And he was…but Jeremiah sure didn’t always feel that way. Jeremiah was—how would you say—not popular, and he felt that. But a prophet rarely is.
When we think of prophets, we think that their job is to do what? Predict the future, give a “prophesy.” We think of Isaiah, when he says, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” Prophets predict the future, right? Yes and no, but usually no.
The prophet has the task of helping to open the eyes of the people to the divine view of their life, which, more often than not, is a view different than what they are typically convinced is “right” (Nagel). And because the prophets challenge the views that people hold to be “right,” views which they hold very tightly, they’re usually not the most popular people in town.
And yet, the prophets are compelled to keep speaking; they cannot keep silent (c.f., Jer 20:9). When the Spirit of the Lord enters into them and sends them out (c.f., Ez. 2:2), they have a pressing need to speak. They feel fiercely, cannot silence their conscience, cannot trivialize the matter at hand—and so they go out to the people to proclaim the divine view, knowing that they will most likely not be treated well or liked by those who hear them.
Do you see why Jesus begins this passage in our Gospel today, and reiterates it—“Fear no one…Do not be afraid” (c.f., Mt 10). In this tenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus is telling his disciples about their mission, specifically their prophetic mission. And he doesn’t mince words; he tells them how it is. He says, “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Mt 10:16). Do you see why Jesus feels the need to encourage them, to distill their fear? They are about to go out, to proclaim the Good News, to proclaim the Gospel, the Truth, to perform signs and wonders—but people aren’t always going to welcome them with open arms.
Jesus tells them: “you will be handed over…flogged.…Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me.” Again, these are his words to the disciples right before he sends them out to spread the Gospel. Not a real William Wallace, pump-up-the-men-and-rally-the-troops moment! Kind of a downer, Jesus!
Why do I bring all of this up? Well, because—are you ready?—each and every one of us in this place today has been called, set apart, destined by God to be a prophet, to be one of these disciples that Jesus sends to spread the Good News, to preach the Gospel. The day of our baptism, we were anointed on the head with the Sacred Chrism, setting us apart as people who share in Jesus’ mission as king, and priest, and as prophet. At Confirmation, we are again anointed with the Sacred Chrism, given the fullness of the Spirit so that we can share the faith. In the Eucharist, we are brought the the source of all life, receive the very body and blood of Christ—so that we can be sent back to bring others to Christ. Your marriage is a vocation to serve the Church by evangelizing your family. You have been called to be a prophet, a disciple Jesus sends to spread the Good News, to preach the Gospel.
And just like Jeremiah, just like Jeremiah, for most of us what is the first thing we do when we hear this? Make excuses. “Eh, I’m a little too busy. Well, I have kids. Uh, I really don’t think you want me to do that. I’m not comfortable sharing my faith, I just want to pray and come to church.” There’s that one Jim Gaffigan sketch and he’s like:
And that can be our attitude as well. It can make us uncomfortable, we don’t feel like we know what we’re doing. And then we know that the Gospel isn’t a popular message these days. We know we are opening ourselves up to a lot of criticism and hatred.
“Fear not.” Preaching the Gospel doesn’t mean standing up in large crowds and telling everyone why Jesus is their personal Lord and savior. Preaching the Gospel doesn’t mean blasting your religious opinions and views all over Facebook. Preaching the Gospel doesn’t mean berating people with Catholic moral principals.
To preach the Gospel, to be a prophet—it begins by simply sharing what God has done for you with the people to whom God has sent you. God didn’t send you to preach on the street corner of Central and Broadway. God didn’t send you to share the Gospel by standing on a soapbox in Dillons and shouting at people. Nope.
“What [the Lord has said] to you in the darkness, speak in the light” (Mt 10:27). Every one of us has stories about the things the Lord has done for us. Every one of us can share how the Lord has restored our lives, taken us out of darkness and into his light. To be a prophet and a disciples who proclaims the Gospel means to boldly communicate what Jesus has said to you “in the darkness,” what Jesus has done, personally, for you.
And that is scary enough, I know. As a good German, what I like to do is hold it right here, and then one day…I’ll die. We don’t reveal our hearts, we don’t expose ourself to ridicule and embarrassment, we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable in front of others. But again, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” We are scared of opening ourselves to ridicule. But do not be afraid.
And what’s more, don’t think that your words do the talking, don’t think you need to prepare speeches and arguments and words, words, words. Isn’t it like 70-90% of communication is nonverbal? Your life—how you live you life, how you are present in each situation, in each encounter—your life communicates the Gospel (or it can).
What do I hear the most? “Wow, you are very young to be a priest. Wow, why did you become a priest? Wow, why would you give up everything to do this?” And some things that shouldn’t be repeated in church. But look: just by my vocation, by accepting the call God has given to me, by how I live the Gospel in and through my life—I have opened myself to ridicule. But at the same time, by opening myself to ridicule, I have also become a living sign of the Gospel. Simply by the witness of how I live the Gospel in and through my life, before I ever say anything, people are disarmed by a 25, 26, 27 year old who would leave everything else behind. People ask me all the time, “Why did you become a priest?” And then I have a chance, not to give a lecture of Catholic morality or to explain why Jesus is important—I have a chance to simple share what God has done for me, and that he offers this to everyone.
“Fear not.” Each and every single person here has this kind of opportunity—more than you think. The Lord has called each and every single person here to be his prophet, to be the disciple he sends. It isn’t always comfortable, there is a constant temptation to make excuses and get out of it, we don’t like being vulnerable and opening ourselves to ridicule. “Do not be afraid.”