HOW TO MAKE PLANS
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
Am 7:12-15; Psalm 85; Eph 1:3-10; Mk 6:7-13
Ladies and gentlemen, dear brothers and sisters, my dear friends, we have a deal! We—as Holy Angels, just signed the contract with the Church of the Foothills. I will never forget the moment when Mike, right after signing the contract— as the president of our first Parish Council, video-called me from our new church-home with tears of joy in his eyes, holding the keys of the building. I could see angels dancing around him. At last, we can not only meet in person, but we will do so in our own church home, a full time, 24/7 chapel in North Tustin, starting next week. Alleluia! In fact, we have already started to make plans for our community. Of course we have, we voted to ratify the financial plan for the coming years, we are having many conversations with clergy about their availability to celebrate for us until a time I can be with you permanently, and about the grand opening of our church—possibly at the end of September. And we are already advertising for a musician (but still praying that Joe and Emily will change their minds and move to Orange County---LOL no pressure, Joe and Emily!! So, we are already on it, aren’t we? And that’s so exciting!
As Holy Angels Church it is our duty to make plans, especially now when we are about to gather in person in our church-home. In our professional lives we make plans. Everyone makes plans with their families and friends and we make plans like for vacation and travel, but also as a community of faith—we plan how to reach out to people and spread the news about Holy Angels. But today’s Gospel passage, as a huge spiritual gift for what may be our last virtual-only Sunday Mass (by the way, this is exactly my sixtieth homily— the sixtieth week almost in a row that I have the honor to preside and preach for you as your pastor)—the Gospel message for today gives us a hint about how to make courageous plans that are wise and really successful. In fact, we must also remember that we are not in control of the future, no matter how hard we try to make our plans as accurate as possible. Nothing in human history can be foreseen or taken for granted. So, we strive to make our plans wiser rather than perfect, for we are uncertain about the events of tomorrow… We learned a lot about that in 2020, haven’t we?
In today’s Gospel passage Jesus decides that his disciples are ready to give it a try on their own, in groups of two. Why in groups of two? Because the first way to make our plan wise is to stay connected with the community. Jesus does not want only the priests and preachers to build his Church. He wants us to stay together in community and seek consensus in whatever plans we are trying to make. Remember, Jesus chose laypeople as his disciples and apostles, not the Temple priests. Then Jesus gives them very specific instructions as to what to take with them: no stick, bread, backpack or money. Jesus is seeking their trust that God will provide for all their needs. So, an open trust in the Lord comes before any other kind of plan or strategy. We just need to be ourselves, trust in God and be who really are. In fact, Jesus says not to wear two tunics. That means Jesus asks his disciples, and us today, to drop any pretense of our position in church or society and be real people. Symbolically, we are called to wear a simple tunic, no different or better than anyone else. We are called to show our real selves and not wear masks that make us look like something greater than we are or conceal our own shortfalls. And this, by the way, is or should, be a distinctive of our Church as Ecumenical and Independent from the Vatican, where all are truly welcome. Disciples are not called to be perfect; we are called to be real. We are never too young, never too old, not educated enough, not smart enough, not biblical enough—to be a disciple of Christ and grow the Kingdom. So, as we move into the community, as our real selves, we plan with humility and simplicity. It is about recognizing ourselves just as true disciples who are confident in God’s divine providence.
So, what does it mean to make a wise, successful plan? I think it means to recognize that all our plans have a condition: “If it is the Lord’s will.” So while making plans, we are called to ask ourselves: “Are we humble enough to accept the fact that, with all our pastoral, liturgical, financial planning for the future, that it will only happen if it is God’s will?” Making plans is helpful to see the possibilities, but we shall remember to submit those plans to God, for we have no control of the future. God does! Yes, we need to submit our plans to God. When we fail to submit our plans to God, then we sin as individuals and especially as a church. It would be like – using a biblical image – to finally have a field in which to sow the seed, without praying to God for the good rain to water it, and for the sun to warm it and make the plants grow and finally produce fruit. That is why—as we are about to establish ourselves in a physical church home— this is the right moment to strengthen our prayer. In fact, submitting our plans to God is done especially through prayer. We shall take all our plans and talk to God about them: aloud, during the prayers of faithful; in silence, during the consecration of the Eucharist; and in our minds and hearts, taking some moments with God about our hopes and dreams for our church in our daily routine. Let us share with God our plans, then. Let us recognize that God is in control and trust, and be confident that, if any of our plans do not work out – as it happened with the Fairhaven facility one year ago, for example – it is because there is a better plan in the works. There is no room for negativity for those who make plans with the right attitude of faith. All of this is to say, I think what the message is today is that we are called to plan, but to plan in faith and wisdom. This is how Jesus taught his first disciples to go and preach the Gospel. And one more thing in addition to faith and wisdom. Do you think the disciples might have been a bit nervous when Jesus sent them out on their own? They had courage. It takes courage to start and build a church based on a step of faith. And so we plan with faith, wisdom and courage. And this is how every good dream begins: with a step of faith that becomes reality in the kingdom of God, even today.
And this, my brothers and sisters, in our last Holy Angels virtual-only Sunday Mass, is the Gospel of the Lord.
Fr. Gianni Passarella