by Fr. Tommy Lane
If you left all the conveniences and found yourself in the scorching hot desert because you were answering the call of God you would want reassurances from God. In our first reading we heard that God had compassion on his people in the desert and through Moses he gave them reassurance as we heard in our first reading, “You yourselves have seen what I did with the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself…” (Ex 19:4)
Jesus was also compassionate as his Father. In our Gospel passage today Jesus felt sorry for the crowds because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36), so he sent out the Twelve Apostles with power to cast out unclean spirits and to cure all kinds of diseases and sicknesses. He said, “as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.” (Matt 10:7-8) Bishops, priests and deacons now continue that ministry of the apostles.
On our journey through the desert of life, bishops, priests and deacons are called by God to point out how God has carried us on eagle’s wings, and proved his love for us through Christ’s death who reconciled us with the Father, as Paul reminds us in his letter which we read today (Rom 5:8,11). Priests are with us at all the most important moments in our lives; baptism, marriage, forgiveness of sins, celebration of the Eucharist, sickness, death. Every priest could tell you personal stories of times when he prayed with the sick and they improved or the times when he anointed the sick and they received new strength. Every priest could tell you many personal stories about the many people he helped when they were going through a difficult time. Every priest has helped to heal broken lives and has given encouragement. Every priest has been surprised to see the power of Jesus work mysteriously through him.
Jesus said to cast out devils. When a priest blesses holy water he asks God to protect us from evil when we use the holy water. Some of the prayers which the priest may say as he blesses the water are,
“God our Father…we ask you to bless this water, and to give us your protection on this day…protect us in spirit and body, that we may be free from sin and come into your presence to receive the gift of salvation.”
An alternative prayer for the blessing of holy water is this one,
“bless this water, as we use it in faith forgive our sins and save us from all illness and the power of evil.”
When holy water is blessed salt may be mixed with it and this is part of the prayer to bless the salt,
“we ask you to bless this salt…Whenever this salt and water are sprinkled drive away the power of evil and protect us always by the presence of your Holy Spirit.”
These prayers remind us of the importance of blessing ourselves with holy water and sprinkling our houses with holy water. Jesus said, “as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.”
Bishops, priests and deacons are in need of prayer because they too have the same human limitations and weaknesses and temptations as everyone. So bishops, priests and deacons are in need of your prayer. When was the last time you prayed for bishops and priests? . . . If you don’t pray for bishops and priests why are you surprised if there are scandals? . . . Bishops and priests cannot survive without your prayer. So pray for them.
Jesus said, “as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.” In so many different ways bishops and priests continue that ministry of Jesus to us on our journey through the desert of this life. Let us thank God for bishops and priests and pray for them.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
More homilies for the Eleventh Sunday Year A
Second Reading related: Love of God for us 2009