It poses great challenges in a culture driven by consumeristic tendencies and the burning sensation created by the media. For modern hearers, it’s bizarre in the sense that it’s nearly impossible setting out on a mission let’s say in Coolidge with nothing but the clothes we wear. We are the type of people who easily adopt to the changing circumstances of our time. We live within the parameters of our own cultural milieu. We let ourselves be lured by materialistic fashion and influenced by what society thinks and dictates. And since Americans are pragmatic people, walking or driving around town at a temperature of 115 degrees without a bottled water and umbrella is a stupid thing to do. In fact, when I was running errands last Friday evening at Shope’s, I ran into a lady who happened to attend the funeral early in the morning. She said, Fr. Jojo, I don’t know how long have you been in Arizona but we use umbrella here when the weather on summer becomes oppressively hot. I told her, I did it in solidarity with the folks standing outside the canopy, who had nothing above their heads. Speaking of practicality, you should have something with you wherever you go. Now, that communication is widespread, cellphones and computers are almost must-haves, even for Priests. But the whole intent of this instruction is to avoid distraction. Keeping things in proper perspective and forward-looking attitude is of the essence. Finally, if it comes to a point whereby we didn’t feel appreciated and recognized despite our huge efforts at volunteering our time, expertise and energy in the church, not to worry because our names are written in heaven. Amen.
In less than a week in Coolidge, known to be one of the hottest places in Arizona, a devout parishioner asked if I were going to make changes as soon as possible. I replied, it didn’t even cross my mind yet. I haven’t unpacked which more or less might take me over a period of 6 months to finally settle down. But, she gave me an idea to take into serious consideration in the next few days. Last Friday, desperate at getting a cellphone, I drove to Casa Grande and got a data plan. After choosing the unit, the agent queried if I had a credit card. Well, yes and you certainly can earn my business today unless I’m down on my luck again after series of failed attempts.
As I begin, I would like to see my ministry in St. James, not simply as a business contract in which your membership in a church is based wholly on a pre- condition. Our baptism into Christ, rather, is the main criterion. What I personally intend to do is conduct house visits and listen real hard to stories. I hope you let me in. If not, i’ll enter the backdoor or maybe, gently break into it. But, if push comes to shove, i’ll go next door, bring God’s love and invite lapse/fallen-away Catholics, members of other denominations and faith traditions, and Non-believers. Shaking the dust off my feet and browbeating people just to win converts have no place in me. Catholics are religiously polite and love to be visited. A subdued approach then works in this context. This plan might be an effective pastoral tactic to grow in numbers or a personal strategy to seek popularity but it is a Gospel mandate, essential and immediate. House visits will have far greater significance on the part of the people and in the parish as a whole more than anyone can imagine.
Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20 lays out the blueprint for Evangelization which apparently requires the Seventy-Two, meaning, everyone of us, excluding no one, to continue carrying out the mission possible of the Apostles. By virtue of our Baptism, we are given the power to cure the sick, exorcise demons, bestow peace, announce the coming of the Kingdom and challenge the reign of evil. We do not simply get a free ride to heaven. We need to participate not just in society but in the unfolding of divine mystery. In order to do so, Jesus makes specific remarkable instructions: send them like lambs among wolves, consider the ethos of simple living, rely on God’s providence and depend on the generosity and hospitality of others. In short, the medium is the message.