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Michael Alexander

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

“The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few ...” (Mt. 9:36-10:8)

If you’ve been following the Gospel readings going all the way back to the Second Sunday of Easter, God the Father, through his Son, Jesus, has been preparing and training the disciples (and us as well) for the moment we read and hear about in Matthew’s Gospel today.

In the previous weeks, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were greeted in a way to calm their fears and reduce any anxiety. “Peace be with you.”

Jesus also reminded us that he is “The Good Shepherd.” In order to be saved, we must learn how to distinguish his voice from the ones that aim to mislead us and take us down a path of sin.

If we still need more “blessed assurance,” Jesus said in John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me.” Why? Because Jesus further explains that he and the Father are one.

Before the training comes to an end, the Father and his son offer the disciples (and us) one last layer of protection from the evils of the world: the gift of the Holy Spirit.

That brings us back to today’s Gospel. Various versions of the Bible in Matthew 9:36 describe the people Jesus saw in his moment of compassion as abandoned, distressed, worried, helpless, dejected, troubled, and harassed. It sounds very similar to the faces we see in our world today. Some of those faces are as close as our immediate family, our workplace, and our surrounding neighborhoods.

Jesus charged the disciples with the ability to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers or cast out demons.” Each of us has been given our own spiritual gifts to fulfill God’s mission. We can care for the sick, comfort those who are grieving, stand in solidarity with those who are ostracized, and not give up on those with mental health challenges.

Matthew’s Gospel serves as a moment of truth for the apostles and us. We’ve been primed for discipleship by the best, and we’re well-equipped to take on what God saw back then and sees at this moment as a troubled, angry, and hate-filled world. It’s time to leave the confines of our physical church buildings or virtual church spaces and allow our communities to experience the unfailing love and grace of a merciful God. This can only be achieved through our efforts to emulate Jesus in prayer and action.

As I reflect upon this Gospel, which also

After Mass on Father's Day (2015), my father, James Alexander, stands with (l-r) his granddaughter, Adrienne, his daughter, Helen, and his grandson, Anthony. My father died in 2017 at the age of 92.

happens to fall on Father’s Day, I can’t help but think about my late father. He answered the call to discipleship in various ways at his longtime parish, Christ the King Church in Louisville, KY. He served as a lector and usher. He took Holy Communion to the hospitals and shut-ins until he could no longer drive. My father died at the age of 92, but he sang in the church choir until he was 90. At that point, he was on a walker. It was a struggle for him to go from the back of the church to the front, where the choir gathered. While some might have thought that was my father at his weakest moment, I saw it as his most courageous. It was a source of inspiration for his children and grandchildren.

Discipleship can take many forms, even if it’s just making people smile, and my father loved to do that. He always had peppermint candy with him and would hand someone a piece of candy and say, “In the name of Jesus Christ, have a peppermint.” He called it his peppermint ministry.

One of the best gifts a father can pass down to his children is being a living example of discipleship. So the question becomes, when Jesus calls us by name, will we be the plus one to the 12 disciples?

Author: Michael Alexander, retired photojournalist with The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper for the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, now residing in Evanston, IL. Member of St. John XXIII Church, Evanston.

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