Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 25 of Season 5 for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 3, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 10, verses 1-12, and 17-20 .
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.
‘Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town."
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to 'tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
The Gospel of the Lord
“Are You Free?” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
I would like to begin today by asking you a question and the question is this, "Are you free?" Are you free? Now on this weekend when we celebrate our liberty as a country, it's an appropriate question to ask. Are you free? And as I ask that question, perhaps you begin to think about some of the liberties that you can share as being a United States citizen. The ability to freely move about and other freedoms that you enjoy.
But in essence, there's a grave difference between liberties and freedom. Especially when it comes to our spiritual sense, liberties, and freedoms. And the reflection I wrote in the bulletin this weekend kind of gets at that a little bit more. But again, I'll ask you, "are you free?" Are you free? Now, you may immediately say "yes, I feel free," but I would like to propose to you that we are often not as free as we may think we are, or may even want to be. That we're not as free as we may want, and the reason for that is because of the power of another emotion that often captivates us and holds us prisoner. And it's the emotion of fear. Fear. Because when there is fear, there is no freedom. When there is fear, there is no freedom. And so if I'm afraid, then I cannot be free.
And as we all gather here today, I am sure that every single person in here, if not everyone, most of us are afraid of something. We're afraid of something. We're afraid of getting old, we're afraid of not being able to stay in our homes independently, we're afraid of dying, we're afraid of having to lose those we love, we're afraid of being successful, of not being successful, of not finding a career that will sustain us, we're afraid of our world, we're afraid of not being able to be who we are, we're afraid of being rejected, we're afraid of not finding someone who can love us, we're afraid that our bodies may fail us, we're afraid that we're going to lose the soulmate of my partner, we're afraid that we may not be able to be a good parent, we're afraid that we may not be able to be a good grandparent, we're afraid of raising our kids, we're afraid of being alone, we're afraid of being hurt, and the list goes on and on and on. And if you want to really understand your fears, then give some thought to what keeps you up at night. What kind of dreams you have, what stories play over in your minds, what things you find yourselves concerned about, what kinds of things you find yourself obsessing over.
Maybe I'm afraid of change, maybe I'm afraid to retire, maybe I'm afraid to do something different. Maybe I'm afraid to be spontaneous.
So, whatever it is that we are afraid of, it can often captivate us because the most interesting thing about fear is that it's always in regard to something in the future, always something in the future that may happen could happen, might not happen, probably will happen, but not happening yet. You see, so we all come with our fears and those things that are troublesome to us, and it gets verbalized like in anxiety and worry, apprehension and those things we're all familiar with, but yet we're here today.
And right now at this moment, we're managing. We are living, we are surviving, we are here. Albeit, not maybe in the best place of life that we would want to be, but we are here. We are here. And those fears are not real, but yet they have power and they make us unfree because we live more in the future than we live in today. We live more in the future than we live in today. You know, a couple of weeks ago, we talked about that now moment when God visits us, but it's not in the future, it's not in the past, but it's in the here and now, especially through the gift of the Eucharist and there's power in the experience of now. And Eckhart Tolle has a book on the “Power of Now,” and he underscores that reality of the present moment.
And so freedom is found in the present moment. I am free when I can let go of my preoccupations with the future. I am free when I can let go of my fears. I am free when I can be here and now as I am open to the presence and wondering glory of God. And guess what? That other word that is describing that is salvation.
So salvation is the experience of true freedom. It's the joy of being. It's fulfillment. It's understanding that within me dwells the presence of God. That within me is the spark of Christ's light. Freedom is found when I begin to realize the “okayness” of life, that because God dwells within me and I'm on a much bigger journey because I'm guided and being led and I'm not alone, because of the wonderful divine presence within that even if all of this falls apart, it still will be okay. That the essence of who I am is going to be okay. And that's the power of the now moment of not being tethered to all of those things that can distract us, that can lure us, that can captivate us.
You know, it's so interesting when Jesus gave his disciples, those instructions. As we listen to them, they sound a little bit on the odd side for the way we live life. If somebody asked us to do those things, it would be kind of difficult to do and almost impractical in many ways, but there's some power in those instructions. He told his disciples when they go, don't get distracted by anything along the way. Don't greet anybody. Don't get preoccupied by the things of the world that you're seeing. Stay single-minded in your mission of preaching that gospel. Stay focused. We have such a hard time being focused, stay focused. And then he said to them when you go to someone's house and you greet them, offer them peace. Peace. But you know what peace is? Peace is freedom. Peace is salvation. When I experienced that inner peace of okayness, I found something incredible.
And he said, if that peace comes back to you, then you have a place to be. So if the people you are saying peace to understand that, then they're open to what you have to do and say, and here's the interesting part. He says, stay there then, don't move around. Don't go to another joint. Stay there. Enjoy the moment of the now, that moment of encounter and preach repentance. Preach repentance.
Now we're so used to hearing that word, we think of repentance as being sorry for something we did wrong or being sorry for thoughts that are not always in line with the gospel message, but repentance is so much more than that. Repentance is when I choose not to be tethered to my fears. When I choose not to be tethered to my fears when I choose not to be overly consumed with what has not yet come to be, or what is around me. When I become focused and centered in the now is where the gift of repentance comes.
Because here's what happens when you think about it. You know, we're asked to live our lives with God at the center. With God at the center, and so we often say with God at the center, we can always keep our ores in the water and the rudders of our ship sailing in the correct fashion. But when we allow fear to get the best of us, guess what? God moves out and we become center.
Now my fears and my preoccupations and my obsessions and my worries and everything I can't control about light and everything that upsets me and everything that is wrong is what is in my vision, and God is not. So if we step out of the way and back off from our fears and all of that stuff and put God in the center, then we are going to experience peace, we are going to experience wholeness. We're gonna realize that it's okay, no matter what. Even when and if that worst fear that I can imagine comes to be.
That's what St. Paul learned. St. Paul lived in freedom. He didn't care what the world said about him. He didn't care what people thought about him. He didn't care what earthly honors he was going to get. He didn't care about what he achieved in the world. The world mattered little to him because he knew inside of him that Christ was alive. And, you know what, if we can get ourselves to the place where inwardly, we know that Christ is alive, then we're going to find something we're all searching for and it's called happiness.
So when we have the opportunity this week to reflect on our lives a bit, perhaps we can get a handle on our fears, identify them, and then ask ourselves "how much power do I allow them to have over my life? How much power do I give all of those things that have not even yet come to be, or might not ever come to be, or may come to be how much power do I give them over my sense of peace?"
Now, I think you might be surprised with the answer to that question.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.