18 June 2023 – 11th Sunday, (A)

18 June 2023 – 11th Sunday, (A)

Failures and scandals sometimes put the Church into deep crisis. Pray that God will provide worthy ministers for his church.

(1) Exodus 19:2-6

God bore the people up on eagles’ wings, crossing the Sinai desert

The people had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

Responsorial: Psalm 99:2-3, 5

R./: We are his people: the sheep of his flock

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing for joy. (R./)

Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
we are his people,
the sheep of his flock. (R./)

Indeed, how good is the Lord,
eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age. (R./)

(2) Romans 5:6-11

We are restored to grace through the death of Christ

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel: Matthew 9:36-10:8

The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. ”


Mission and reconciliation

Mission and reconciliation are prominent topics in the readings. The people of the Old Covenant received their mission through Moses. We, the people of the New Covenant receive our mission through Jesus. What is our mission? We are commissioned and sent to proclaim loud and clear to all and sundry that the kingdom of God has come.

The gospel passage reminds us that Jesus chooses some of his disciples for specific tasks. That is not to say that the others have nothing to do. The whole Church is missionary. Each of the baptised is duty bound to spread the Gospel to the best of his or her ability. There are many ways of doing that. But the basic and most important contribution which we can make is to live a deep Christian life.

Before considering whether or not we are doing anything to spread the Gospel we might consider our attitude towards the project. Do we think about the matter? Jesus sent the apostles because he had compassion on the crowds. There are millions who have never heard of Christ. How does that fact impinge upon us? Do we regard it just as a fact or do we accept it as a challenge? Do we in any way share Christ’s compassion and give expression to it? St John Chrysostom wrote: “Nothing is colder than a Christian who does not care for the salvation of others.” Today’s gospel may well be a call to us to break out of our little ice cubes.

The harvest is the Lord’s. God will provide but he must be asked to do so. God sends workers in answer to prayer. That was the first thing Jesus told the disciples. Work without prayer will be fruitless. Paul was aware of that. In his letters he often asks for prayers that God would bless his missionary work. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was an enclosed contemplative nun. Her short religious life was spent in prayer, household chores and penance. She offered her life and prayer for the missions. After her death she was proclaimed Patroness of the Foreign Missions. A strange choice at first sight. Yet a powerful reminder that they also serve who “only” kneel and pray. A reminder too that one way of fulfilling our obligation to spread the Gospel is by remembering the missionary work of the Church in our daily personal prayer. Many generous people are prevented by circumstances from engaging in missionary work. There is nothing to prevent people from praying for the spread of the Gospel. Indifference to the salvation of others is an unacceptable excuse for not doing so.

Jesus gave the apostles power over evil spirits. He gave them power to heal. The exercise of those powers was to be a clear sign that announced the presence of the kingdom. Satan was being challenged and defeated. The apostles worked many miracles. In our day the miracles may not be as frequent or as evident but the power is there in the Church. Every Christian is called upon to be an influence for good in society. The presence of the kingdom is announced, Christ’s mission is continued and extended when we bring the compassion of Jesus into the lives of others. Through our ordinary daily contacts with people especially with the lonely and rejects we can and ought to be instruments of acceptance, reconciliation and healing. We don’t have to go on the foreign missions in order to do that. For most Christians the home, the parish, the work-place are the mission territories where they have to spread the Gospel message as best they can.

When the human race turned aside from from God, God did an extraordinary thing. On his own initiative, motivated by sheer love, he sent his only Son to die for us. The death of Jesus achieved our reconciliation. We are now friends of God. Paul exults in this. We have proof of God’s love for us. He urges us to cast doubts aside. Now we have firm grounds for hoping that God will find us righteous in his sight. Like Paul, we too have a mission. We are to be “ambassadors for Christ.” Ambassadors ought to be builders of what they announce. We joyfully announce reconciliation. That involves consistently helping our sisters and brothers by our good example to be reconciled to God and to one another.

Communitarian Church

At a time when the role of Church is sometimes confusedly understood even by Christians, our Scriptures remind us that Christianity from the beginning was communitarian in nature. Jesus never intended an individualistic do-it-yourself approach to salvation.

Paul tells us that we are called and brought into a special relationship with God not because of anything we have done. We are justified and reconciled with God because of the death and resurrection of Christ. It is not something we can do on our own. Exodus also assures us that it was God who brought Israel to Sinai. It was on God’s initiative that salvation or the freeing of Israel from the slavery of Egypt was accomplished. Jesus too had compassion and pity and sent the apostles forth to continue his work of preaching the Good News.

We are reminded also of our new relationship with God because of what God has done for us. The beautiful images in our first reading and Gospel recall this intimacy. “I bore you on eagle wings,” “You shall be my special possession,” and “his heart was moved to pity” are all ways of telling us how God has loved us. Paul reminds us that Christ’s death is a sign of that love. That love too, he tells us, is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

We live today in that special relationship, with the corresponding obligations that we have as God’s people. The message of Good News is not meant only for ourselves. God reminded Israel that “all the earth is mine.” Like the apostles, we too are sent forth with power to proclaim the goodness of our God.

Trust in the Lord

The first and second readings are closely related, and what links them is the theme of trust. If we start with the first reading, we find the Israelites in the Sinai desert after the Exodus. Moses conveys the word of Yahweh to the people, a message of God’s loving care expressed under the image of a large bird, an eagle, who has just carried Israel out of the slavery of Egypt into freedom; The imagery is pagan, for the Egyptians thought of the sun-god Horus as an eagle, which crossed the sky daily from east to west; this did not prevent them from picturing the sun god as the sun disk and combining them in a single symbol – a sun disk endowed with wings The Israelites took over the imagery of the Egyptians, while transforming the theology. For the Israelites “the sun-with-wings” became a symbolic statement for Yahweh’s special care for his people. “Under the shadow of your wings, protect us, 0 Lord,” is a cry to Yahweh which appears in the Psalms five times in all. In each case the Psalm in question is a psalm of hope. The imagery is clearest in the prophet Malachi: “The sun of justice shall shine with healing in its wings. The Exodus, liberation, salvation, has come to Israel through the mercy of Yahweh who has taken the initiative in this work of grace.

If we turn to the Second Reading, we find a similar lesson derived for the encouragement of Christians from consideration of the death of Christ. The death and resurrection of Christ are the New Exodus by which liberation and salvation come to men. “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.. Surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son.” Reconciliation brings joyful trust in God through Christ.

Our trust in God is based on God’s love for us which is proved by the fact that he died for us even when we were sinners and unworthy of his love. We have here a point of great importance which is applicable to us in our own daily lives. It is essential for parents, for example, not to give the impression to their children that the parent’s love has been withdrawn when children have been guilty of minor, or even major, breaches of correct conduct. The conclusion the children will reach is that their parents love them, not so much for themselves, as for their goodness, the respectability of their lives and the undisturbed peace which formerly reigned in the home. All these reasons concern the interests of the parents, not the children. This is not love at all, for love seeks the interests of the loved one. If, for example, a unmarried girl becomes pregnant, true parental love will see to it that the girl remains truly loved, just at the moment when she is most in need of love. The only negative attitude to be dopted is that of refusing to condone what has happened, of saying that what is wrong is right. In this way parents will reflect faintly the love of God for his erring children. To do this, parents will have to be free from “the slavery of public opinion and able to set aside considerations of public respectability. The result will be greater personal freedom from fear of what other people may say and interior growth for the parents.

The second reading speaks of “joyful trust” It may be too much to expect “joyful trust” of everyone, for hope is not its nature essentially joyful. Hope has as its object things which are difficult to attain and often it is a matter of clinging on in hope. What is important is hope, whether joyful or not. We can be helped towards this by either the imagery of “God’s wings” or consideration of the redemption through the death of Christ who loved us while we were still sinners.

What about Vocations?

At the end of the Vietnam war, when the city of Saigon fell, the communists swept in from the North and the Americans, the greatest power on earth, beat a hasty and undignified retreat. In the final twenty-four hours, they launched a massive evacuation of US personnel and Vietnamese sympathisers, flying a constant stream of helicopters from the embassy compound to a fleet of forty US warships standing out to sea. Panic set in on the streets of Saigon.

Thousands of Vietnamese who felt compromised or had reason to fear the wrath of the invading communists, tried to flee. They crammed on to boats and barges along the Saigon River, with their few possessions and far too little provisions, and put to sea. So began the “boat people.” Li Pinh was a twenty-year old student, who managed to climb on to a boat, with seventy others, packed like animals. For days they drifted in the South China sea, quickly running out of food and water. Death and delirium began to take its toll. Just then they encountered a British freight-carrier, plying between Hong Kong and Singapore. They begged to be taken aboard but the captain refused adamantly, offering instead to give them supplies of food and fresh water. Li Pinh pleaded desperately with the captain. As a last resort he held up a new-born baby. A young woman had given birth on the boat. The captain relented. They were taken to Singapore, from where Li Pinh and others were eventually transported to England. Now, twenty years after, he is a parish priest in Manchester. “I owe my life and my priesthood to that little baby,” he said, when he described his ordeal to me recently. I had simply asked him: “How come a Vietnamese is a parish priest in Manchester?’ For who can say by what strange way Christ brings his will to light.

There are others, too, whose paths to the altar were no less strange. There is young Huu-Thu from Laos, a sixteen-year old who with his younger sister spent some years in a refugee-camp, before finally reaching Switzerland and the priesthood. His mother is a Buddhist. Or M’boya from Kenya, whose parents were Muslims. Or Thallapalli whose family belong to the caste of Untouchables in India. These I know because I shared a home with them in an international convitto in Rome. The fastest growing church today is that of Seoul in South Korea. Many of the older churches in France and elsewhere in Europe are served by priests from Africa and other recent missionary countries.

Those depressed in Ireland by the recent decline in clerical numbers might take a global view of church and its priesthood. Maybe what our jaded church needs now is a new infusion of blood. New priests who see their priesthood with more gospel eyes. Yesterday’s converts become tomorrow’s missionaries. So might the church be revitalised. But our hierarchy/bishops may also need to look again at the requirements for a priestly vocation. It is not at all obvious to many of us, priests and laity, that the discipline of imposed celibacy is appropriate for our times.

Maybe the growing scarcity of priests is God’s deliberate way of creating space to develop the priesthood of all believers, including that of devout women, ready to serve the community of faith. A church reluctant to avail of all that talent may now be forced to do so. Nor will God leave us “sheep without a shepherd’, as long as we continue to want such priests. All we have to do is ask. Jesus gave his own assurance: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”

Today we heard about the compassion Jesus felt for those who followed him. They were like lost sheep, sheep without a shepherd, without any direction, goals, or purpose in life. He asked his immediate followers to join with him in praying to the Father for more workers, as the harvest was great and the labourers were few. Already he wanted to share his mission because, when he had completed his part of it, his followers would have to take over, and continue it.


  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    The Church is God’s chosen people to work for God in the world.

    God our Almighty Father said to Moses in the First reading, “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”
    God our Father says, “The whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom”. We are the priestly kingdom to serve our Almighty God in this world. He is looking forward to the church to serve Him in this world. Before His Ascension, our Lord Jesus said, “Go and preach the Gospel to the entire world”. Only His church can preach the Gospel since only the church knows Him.

    What are we to do to serve our Lord Jesus in this world?

    Once Saint Francis of Assisi called one of his brothers, “Come, let us go and preach in the neighbouring village today”. Then Saint Francis of Assisi went with the brother all the way, happily talking with the brother. They walked to the village and returned back all the time only happily talking between themselves. The brother asked St. Francis of Assisi, “You told me that we are going to preach in the village, but then we did not even say a word to them”. St. Francis of Assisi told him, “Did you see that people were observing us that all the time we are happily talking. They would have even observed the joy within us. They would have seen Jesus within us”.

    St. Francis of Assisi said, “Always preach the Gospel, if necessary use words”. Here too St. Francis preached the Gospel to the entire village without even speaking a word.

    What are the ways we can preach the Gospel in our life?

    Be happy during sufferings: “How are they able to be happy amidst their terrible sufferings?” – This should be the question we will be placing in others’ minds, when we trust in our Lord Jesus during our sufferings. Having faith when nothing is going wrong is easy. Having faith when everything is going wrong is the real test. If we are going to have faith, when others have lost faith, then people will know that our God is the true God.

    When we are undergoing tribulations, we should remember John 16:33. Our Lord Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So sufferings will be there. But we should look at Jesus and get through it. For our Lord Jesus also, His sufferings were foretold. He was aware of it right from His young age. Though He knew how He was going to suffer, His day of crucifixion and death, He was still happy during His living years. He was not frightened about the big cross but was waiting to carry it.

    Forgive your enemies: I remember an interesting testimony. There were two people working for the same company. Assume Steve and Sam. Steve became jealous of Sam because Steve was laid off from his organisation. But Sam prayed for Steve to get a job. Steve started telling Sam, “You will also get laid off”. Sam got laid off. But he got an inspiration to keep praying for Steve to get a job, he asked God, “Why should I pray for Steve when he wishes bad things to happen to me?” Then He heard the ‘silent’ voice – “It is the way to forgive your enemies”. Even when we pray for those who curse us to be blessed, we are actually forgiving them. In the year 1995, Sister Rani Maria was murdered near Indore. She was stabbed 50 times by the murderer. But her family forgave the murderer in 2002. This transformed the murderer’s life. Forgiveness brings souls nearer to God.

    Pray for solutions: A parent testified, “My patron saint is Saint Monica, because she also suffered with her wayward son like me. She too had only Jesus as her support. She prayed and only her prayers transformed her son to a Saint. We also do not know how to bring our kid to the right path. So we are also praying just like Saint Monica. We begin our day by praying the Rosary for our kid”. Saint Monica never preached all her life. But her life was a beautiful message to all suffering parents.

    In the garden of Gethsemane when our Lord Jesus did know what to do, what did He do? He prayed. Prayer gave Him the strength to carry the cross and complete His tasks. When the purpose of suffering is to change us, then God will make us go through it. Moses was made strong in the desert and then God called Him to lead His people. He did not start straight from the palace. Likewise all had the desert experience in their life where they underwent a good transformation. Our Lord Jesus also had to go through the desert to prepare for His ministry. These kinds of sufferings are meant to bring a change within us. When we undergo the change, the mission of suffering will be accomplished and it will be stopped.

    Whatever may be the problem, prayer has the answer.

    Pray for others: A couple who were not aware of our Lord Jesus Christ wanted a child for a long time. A Christian lady became their friend, saw their plight and started praying for them to Mamma Mary. When the couple conceived and got their baby, they believed it because of the prayers of their Christian friend. The non-Christian friend pleaded with the Christian friend to take them to church and show them Mamma Mary, the Child Jesus and so on.

    When someone conveys their problem to us, let us say “I will pray for you”. And let us pray for them. God wants us to be the praying walls to protect our nations.

    Facing criticism: Our Lord Jesus was criticised continually. Wherever He went His critics followed Him. But regardless of how much they caused troubles for Him, our Lord was not troubled by them. He chose His battles. He knew His critics are not His battles. He just moved on. So pick up your battles. Not all battles are worthy of the fight.

    Today’s second reading tells us that God loves us anyway. Even if we sin, it does not lessen His love for us. Let us also keep the same attitude towards others. How much ever others irritate us or harm others, let us show the beautiful love of Almighty God to them.

    Jesus longs for the church to carry the world in its prayers. Can we?

  2. Soline Humbert says:

    “If for example an unmarried girl becomes pregnant…” (Trust in the Lord)
    Somewhat ironical there is no mention of the unmarried boy/man with whom the pregnancy occurs, especially on Father’s Day. It speaks to me more of patriarchal morality than Gospel values.

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