Our Claim

Today’s reflection is for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 15, 2018.

What exactly makes one great? Money? Power to influence? Personal or professional achievement? Possessions? Positions? “Bragging rights” mean quite a lot to us, don’t they? Today’s readings call us to humility, knowing that the only accomplishment that matters at all is not our accomplishment at all.

For me, being a Marine was quite an accomplishment–to be a Force Recon Marine even more so! To be a “dual cool” (airborne and combatant diver) Force Recon Marine doing Close Quarters Battle and be an Explosive Breacher meant that heads turned wherever I went in the Marines. It felt good. My accomplishments were hard-won through a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears–quite literally. All of our service men and women–and especially those that rise to the level of Special Forces deserve a great deal of respect–and rightfully so. When I got out, I started going to college and no one seemed to care about military accomplishment. The game had changed–now degrees mattered! And I pursued them too–Bachelors! Masters! Credentials! Oh my!

After 15 years in the “trenches” of the classroom, I’ve been congratulated quite a lot lately on a new administrative position that I’ve accepted in the Turlock Unified School District–Dean of Students at Turlock Junior High. Yes…thank you…thank you… (bowing and such).

When it comes to certificates and degrees and accomplishments, I’ve got a bunch. How about you? What brings you pride? For what do you (or the world) pat yourself on the back? From the bottom of my heart, while I am quite proud of those physical, academic, and professional accomplishments, I can see quite clearly that none of those were an end in themselves. No, that was just training and formation toward a much higher calling, namely, to stand witness to the power of God, to bring light out of darkness, to bring joy where there was only pain, to bring salvation through mercy and forgiveness. With the Psalmist, our only prayer should be, “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation. (Ps 85:8)

Today’s message is quite simple–if we have any reason to boast, it is only in the generosity, love, and mercy of God. He is the reason we move. He is the reason we breathe. He is the reason we have being. If I have accomplished anything at all; If there is any good in me; If I have any good thought or action at all; to Him I give the credit, the thanks, and the glory. As St. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.” (1:3)

You see, before the foundation of the world, God knew me and had important plans for me. God’s plan was to use every hardship that life (and the evil one) would bring my way to use for His glory! God’s amazing like that. When I heard God’s call to serve Him, His Church, and the world, my life’s trials and triumphs finally made sense. I discovered that it was never about me at all, but rather, what God desires to do through me.

Again, “In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.” In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.” (EPH 1:5)

But to what end does God call us, destine us, and equip us? Toward what end has God transformed every sorrow into dancing, ever accomplishment of mine into Glory for Him? The answer is quite clearly revealed in today’s Gospel–all of this that we might go out two-by-two, mano e mano, as brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, children and parents proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.

The Gospel proclaims, “Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits…So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” MK 6:-13

We who have heard God’s call realize that all is grace. All that we have and all that we do, all that we receive, and all that we will do gives us no reason to boast, but instead only place a burden upon us–to proclaim Christ to the world. How can I who have received so many gifts remain silent about the Giver of those gifts? I cannot. Nor should you.

I have discovered that each of us has been given gifts that are particular to God’s calling for us. My gifts are not yours, and yours are not mine, but the end of the proper use of those gifts is the same–to somehow, in some way, in some place, to some people known only to you and God to love God and neighbor.

When we give our “yes” to God and His calling we change the world around us. Through our yes, we enlighten minds that are in darkness, bring peace to conflict, bring hope where there is only despair. That’s our high calling. That’s why we have any power or possessions at all–to more freely, frequently, and fervently love. No reason to boast–only have eyes open, hands open, and feet moving to those most in need.

Some questions for reflection:

What are your accomplishments in this life–your reasons to boast?

What struggles have you had or do you have that don’t seem to make any sense?

How is God calling you to use your gifts, accomplishments, and pain to transform the world around you?

And finally, are you listening?

Blessings, Stephen

By Deacon Stephen Valgos