I Kings 2:1-4, 10-12
First Book Kings begins with the death and burial of King David. David’s end is Solomon’s beginning, his reign as the new King of Israel, David’s son and builder of the first Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon is recognized for his wisdom, wealth and power, but also for his sins of idolatry and turning away from Yahweh which will lead to the kingdom being divided. The main prophet during this time will be Elijah. Look forward to some old stories of triumph and tragedy during the next two weeks.
At the end of November, in an 85-page document, Pope Francis wrote, "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." In today’s Gospel the Twelve are sent out with power and authority to do what Jesus has been doing: preaching the Kingdom, calling people to repent, liberating people from compulsions, and healing the sick. Jesus wanted the Twelve to get their hands dirty by being out on the streets. By word and deed they acted on what they preached and made the Kingdom a reality in people’s lives.
When Jesus spoke of power and authority, he did something often ignored. He linked power and authority with love and humility. The "world" often seeks power for selfish gain. The "world" desires to keep its hands clean and be above the mess. Jesus teaches us to use power and authority for the good of our neighbor.
The Church is to be on the streets to help alleviate what ails the world; the Church is to be on the streets to heal; the Church is to be on the streets to evangelize, challenging the world with different values, attitudes and lifestyles.
A man worked at a firm and constantly complained about it to his friends, neighbors, family and associates. He complained about the place to anyone who would listen. When his oldest son grew older, the dad offered to see if he could get his son a job at the company. The son replied, "Dad, why would I want to work at such an awful place?" Feeling hurt, the father asked, "Why would you think it is such an awful place?" The son replied, "Because the people are the place and you are not happy." The people are the place. If we want people to become Catholic, if we want people to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, then we need to be the place.
Are we active in the Church or just spectators watching from the sidelines? Are we inviting people to a new life, or are we keeping our hands clean. Are we a healing force in the world or are we shaking our heads instead of shaking hands? If we do not let the love of God flow through us in active service, then how will anyone know what God’s love is like? If we do not work to heal others of their pain, then how will others ever know the healing power of Jesus?
Dirty hands can point to a healthy Church.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.