Preached at St. Kilian Parish on July 6, 2019 at the 4:00pm and 5:30pm Masses
When I was eight years old, I received a beautiful bright orange bike for my birthday. It had streamers on the end of the handlebars, and the handlebars were adjustable so that it could be a normal bike, or a chopper, or an Evel Knievel stunt bike. It had a big white banana seat on it, the bike equivalent of the three-row seating in SUVs today. I could ride the bike with both my sisters as passengers.
Of course, before I could ride my sisters around, first I had to learn how to ride. Normally you would use training wheels to learn how to ride, but I was a “big boy” and I refused to use them, so my dad decided that he would hold the bike up by the banana seat as I pedaled along, which looking back now is even less “big boy” than training wheels. So, despite my mom being totally against it, my dad and I headed out into the alley behind our house so I could learn to ride.
In no time at all I was pedaling my heart out and the streamers on the handlebars were blowing in the wind. I was flying down the alley past all the houses! I had no idea my dad could run so fast! What I didn’t realize was that my dad had let go of the banana seat to watch me ride off all by myself! It only took a short time for me to realize I was alone. I called out to him and looked around for him and he was not there. I started weaving, the bike started wobbling, and I crashed like Evel Knievel in one of his videos. I have a scar on my knee to this day to remind me of this moment. When my panic-stricken mom ran up to me asking me if I was OK, I proudly asked her, “Did you see how good I did?” She replied, “The only thing I saw was that your father almost killed you.”
We all have moments in our lives when we begin to wobble in our faith. Times when our faith is shaken and we are down: illness, job loss, loss of a loved one, or problems with our marriage or family relationships. We all experience dark times when we wonder if the Lord has left us. Times when we say, “Are you there, God? I’m going through some stuff right now. Can you help me out?”
Today’s gospel is about faith. When Jesus sends the seventy-two out to the cities and towns ahead of him, he tells them to “carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” He is asking them to go without anything. When you go on vacation this summer, are you going to go without anything? No, you’re going to take a bunch of money and credit cards, you’re going to pack a bunch of stuff to jam it in the overhead compartments of the plane or strap on top of your SUV. You will make a list and check it twice so that you don’t forget anything. If you do forget anything, you will spend triple the price in the hotel gift shop to make sure you have it. You will have your stuff with you. But Jesus asks the seventy-two to go without even shoes. Jesus is letting them know that he is going to take care of them, provide for them, and get them where they are going. Jesus is asking them to have faith.
Having faith is about letting the Lord be our training wheels. Faith is knowing that our Lord has our backs and is in control, even when things seem out of control. Faith is knowing that even if we do fall our Lord is there to pick us up.
The seventy-two in the gospel were not the apostles, they were simply followers of Jesus, just like each of us. But they put their trust in the Lord and the path that he had chosen for them, and so they accomplished many amazing things. I’m sure the seventy-two had doubts before they left on their journeys. I’m sure they had missteps and falls (after all they had no shoes), but the Lord was still watching out for them. If they fell, he would pick them back up again as my mom did when I fell on my bike. As today’s reading from Isaiah puts it so well, “as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” In the end, the seventy-two returned rejoicing, not only had they healed people and spread the Good News, even the demons were subject to them because of Jesus’ name. Through faith they accomplished even more than they ever expected.
Of course, today’s gospel has a component of evangelization to it, sharing the faith with others, which is something Catholics find difficult to do. When is the last time a Catholic showed up at your door to share their faith with you? But I’m sure you’ve had Jehovah Witnesses at the door. The local non-denominational church comes to my door regularly. I was in Salt Lake City two years ago and on Thursdays the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice open to the public. The most beautiful music you will ever hear is free of charge, but there is a hidden cost to attend. You will be approached by hundreds of Mormons throughout the city who want to share Jesus with you.
Sharing the faith is scary. Do I know my faith enough to share it? Do I have enough faith to share it? The seventy-two in today’s gospel sharing the Good News while having nothing with them makes important points about faith sharing. Faith is not something we can carry around with us to hand on to someone else like a pamphlet, brochure, or magazine. Faith is not something we can store up for a rainy day, that’s why when difficult times come upon us our faith can sometimes just disappear. Faith is simply a gift that we receive. To share faith, we simply pass on what we are currently receiving from our daily relationship with the Lord. We don’t even have to go door to door. The seventy-two were instructed to stay in one house and not to move from place to place. They were focused on wherever they were now. They lived lives of faith. That’s how faith is best shared.
I soon learned to ride that bike and it was very soon after that that I was riding by our house with my hands raised above my head shouting, “Look ma no hands!” Our faith needs to be like that. We need to get to the point where we can let go let go and let the Lord take control. The seventy-two did that in today’s gospel and they accomplished some amazing things. Faith transforms everything.
Rejoice and be glad!