Blog & Pastor Letters

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

06-18-2023Weekly ReflectionRev. Ryan Muldoon

In the shadow of Friday’s Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, today’s Gospel opens with the description that Jesus’ heart was “moved with pity” for the crowds, “because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” Like the crowds, without the presence of Christ in our lives, we are aimless, disoriented, without belonging. However, our readings today are filled with reminders that, in Christ, we belong to the Father. We are “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation,” our First Reading from Exodus tells us; we are “his people, the flock he tends,” we heard in today’s Responsorial Psalm. God has made us a kingdom, a nation, his people, his flock; we belong, and, in him, our lives find a definitive new direction.

God bore the Israelites “up on eagles’ wings” and brought them safely out of slavery in Egypt. Through the blood of the Passover lamb and the following exodus, instead of continued slavery and the prospect of imminent death, God brought life and freedom to the people of Israel. St. Paul, in today’s Second Reading from the Letter to the Romans, reminds us that, “while we were still sinners, Christ,” the new Passover Lamb, “died for us,” and we are “justified in his blood.” By this justification, we are brought not only life and freedom in an earthly sense, but we are promised eternal life and the freedom from slavery to sin. We have been “reconciled to God” and “saved by his [Son’s] life” in Baptism. Of this good news, we boast; we are called to tell the world!

If God is going to make of us — like our Jewish brothers and sisters — a kingdom of priests, we should not be surprised that sacrifice would be at the center of our life and worship, for a priest is one who offers sacrifice. An altar, the place of sacrifice, stands at the center of every Catholic Church. Each time we gather for the celebration of Mass, the Eucharistic sacrifice is the high point of our worship, and the very “source and summit” of our lives as Catholics (Lumen Gentium, 11). In the Eucharistic sacrifice, the one sacrifice of Christ, who died for us on the Cross, is presented again in an unbloody manner until Christ’s coming in glory.

Our belonging to Christ is through our incorporation into the Church, built upon the foundation of the twelve apostles, who are named in today’s Gospel passage. To these twelve and to their successors, the bishops, Jesus gave authority. Great enough would have been the “authority over unclean spirits” and the authority “to cure every disease and every illness,” but Jesus gives them the still greater authority to bind and to loose, to forgive sins and to celebrate the sacraments in his name until his coming in glory. Our belonging to Christ, who gives our life direction, is visible in and through the Church. In Baptism, our life in Christ begins, and, through the other sacraments, that life is nourished and deepened within us.

Our bishops, the successors of the apostles, connect us not only to the sacramental authority given to the twelve, but to Christ himself, especially to his Resurrection. As we resume celebrating one of the numbered Sundays in Ordinary Time (today being the eleventh), we know that the Easter Season for this year is past. Or is it? Each Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection, and we are invited to embrace an “apostolic experience” of the Resurrection. The apostles were the ones who peered into Jesus’ tomb and, with their own eyes, saw that it was empty. The apostles were some of the first to see (and touch!) the Risen Lord, to encounter him in their midst, to be fed by him. For the apostles, the Resurrection was not an abstract historical fact; the Resurrection was real and was life-changing.

The Resurrection of Christ gave the lives of the apostles the definitive new direction that Christ wants to give to us. We rely upon the Church and her bishops to connect us to the witness of the apostles, to connect us to the life-changing reality of the Resurrection. We may be back in “Ordinary” Time (from ordinalis, “numbered”), but there is nothing ordinary about it; each day of our lives, especially each Sunday’s celebration of the Resurrection, is extraordinary. The apostles were entrusted with the mission to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. As members of this kingdom, we share in the mission of the apostles: to announce to the world that Christ’s kingdom is already in our midst and that we await the fullness of the kingdom on the last day.