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A reflection on the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Church Services in 2025[i]

Pastor: The Lord be with you!

Congregation: And with your spirit.

Pastor: Will everyone please turn on their tablet or iPad, laptop, smartphone, or Kindle Bibles to today’s Gospel, Luke 10:1-12, 17-20? Please switch on your Bluetooth audio device to download and listen to the sermon.

Pause.

Pastor: Now, let us pray, committing this week into God’s hands. Open your preferred messaging app, Twitter, or Facebook, and chat with God. Offer your petitions to God.

Silence.

Pastor: As we take our Sunday tithes and offerings, please have your credit and debit cards ready. You can log on to the church Wi-Fi using the password ‘Lord2025AD.’

For those in the church, the ushers will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the worshipers:

Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers and laptops at the rear of the church.

Those who prefer to use iPads can open them.

Those who prefer telephone banking, take out your cell phones to transfer your contributions to the church account.

The holy atmosphere of our church becomes truly electrified as ALL the smartphones, iPads, and laptops beep and flicker!

Pastor: For those of you in your homes, please follow a similar procedure. Please rise for the final blessing and closing announcements:

This week’s stewardship meetings will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out.

PSR classes on Monday and Tuesday will be held live on Zoom at 5 pm and 6 pm respectively. Please don’t miss out.

You can follow your pastor on Twitter this weekend to register complaints, or to seek counselling and prayers.

Those who are sick in the hospital will be anointed over Facetime.

God bless you.

And Jesus wept…

Yes, I am sure Jesus would weep to look at the condition of our communities. What I shared with you now is not in the distant future. It is a reality in today’s world, more so after the pandemic. It is the reality of lonely lives without communities.

In the Gospel of the day, Jesus sends out 72 disciples on a mission. He sends them ahead to places where He Himself intended to go. What is the primary duty of the 72 disciples and what is the significance of the number 72?

According to the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 19:15), two witnesses were required for a testimony to be credible. Hence, the disciples are sent in pairs. According to the Jewish tradition of Biblical times, there were 72 nations in the world. The number 72 signifies the mission to those nations. Their primary mission in these places is to build the community. Since they go in pairs, they were to build 36 communities. The initiative to build communities did not come from the disciples but from Jesus Himself.

What will the 72 do? They will pray so that there will be more people who will work towards the building of new communities. They will not be wolves among the people, but lambs in the community. They will build the community to live in simplicity, teaching people to depend on God’s providence for their safety, security, and future. They will offer to the community the gift of God’s peace that passes all understanding—peace that enables the community to live in wholeness and completeness. They will not be wolves seeking extra comforts and better food than the community members. They will not rob the community to fill their money bags. They will bring God’s healing that restores the body and mind of people. It is in this community that the Kingdom of God becomes a reality.

The mission of these 72 is not just to proclaim the message of Jesus. Their essential mission is to build the community in wholeness. This is what the disciples do. After their successful mission of building communities, they come back rejoicing.

This is what the Apostles did after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Starting from Jerusalem, then in Rome, Greece, Turkey, Syria, India, and other parts of the world, they built 40 different communities that celebrated their identity as the people of “The Way.” In these communities, followers of “The Way” celebrated their lives as pilgrims centered around the Eucharist and the Word of God. Of course, every community had its own share of problems. They needed correction, admonition, and encouragement. None of the communities was perfect, yet they celebrated their life together.

We consider ourselves in our Church and in our parishes today to be a community. I think it is important to ask ourselves, “What is the common purpose of our community?” Following this come other questions: “When was the last time that we came together as a community for a common activity where the young, old, employed, unemployed, and retirees all interacted with one another? When was the last time we contacted someone who has stopped coming to church and invited them to come back to the parish, even by sharing a bulletin with them?”

Lately, I do feel like our parishes function like customer service centers. We come for a service. We pay for the service and if we are not happy with the service, we go to another service center.

More non-denominational churches are offering services on the Internet. In some places, online attendance surpasses the number of people who come into the church on a Sunday morning. For example, in one of the first internet churches, Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, you can share prayers via a web forum before even having met another person.

American Christians are slowly getting confined to our living rooms, accessing our churches through our smartphones and our televisions. No longer do we have to leave our homes to interact with other community members. We can do it all from the comfort—and isolation—of our own homes.

Many people, including some Catholics, presume that God is primarily present to us one on one, as individuals, rather than in and through the community of believers. This is not what the Bible says. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

There can never be a community when people are becoming more and more comfortable sitting in their bedroom and watching the Mass. It is not a private devotion. It is a community celebration. The community demands that we force ourselves to get out of our homes.

The mission of the 72 disciples sent by Jesus and the mission of all of us is to build communities. The tangible community that is present to us is the parish community we each are a part of, where we each belong. It is there that the Kingdom of God can become a reality.


Notes

[i] Adapted from “A Church Service in the Future”.


Image:  Brooklyn Museum – He Sent them out Two by Two (Il les envoya deux à deux) by James Tissot


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Fr. Fredrick Devaraj comes from India. He was a member of the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer, the Redemptorists of Bangalore Province.  Now he is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri, serving at St. Alban Roe Catholic Church.

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