There was a little store front church in a rundown area of Baltimore. There was a brightly colored sign over the front door of this church that read, ’Welcome to the house of the Lord.’ Inside there was another sign to be read by people as they leave the church. It read, ‘Welcome to the vineyard of the Lord.’
You know for years now our first petition in the prayer of the faithful is, ‘may we live this Mass outside these walls in the work we do, the service we give and in the prayers we pray.’ The final words after the final blessing at the end of Mass are, ’let us go in peace to love and to serve the Lord.’
In the gospel of Matthew we hear of Jesus sending the apostles out two by two to cure the sick, cast out demons and announce the good news that the kingdom of God is near. They would do the very things Jesus was sent to do.
Jesus sent them two by two so they could support one another when they met hostility and encourage one another in their efforts.
He commanded them to take nothing with them, neither bag, nor money, not bread, so as to teach them to despise riches, and to make people ashamed when they saw them preaching poverty by their own lack of possessions.
He gives them his authority to preach repentance, to cast out demons, to cure the sick. He also gives them each other, for they are not sent out alone but in partnership “two by two.” The gift of his authority and the gift of one another is essentially the gift of Jesus himself. So gifted, disciples cannot fail.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord – welcome to the vineyard of the Lord. One of the powers the apostles were given was the power to cast out demons. In the time of Jesus belief in spiritual beings was very strong. Greeks called hostile spirits “demons,” while Jewish people called them “unclean spirits.” We have demons in our days, demons that are our ways of thinking and living that make us see other people as less than ourselves, demons such and bigotry and prejudice.
In his letter to us and to the whole world, ‘ Laudatio se’ on the care and nurturing of creation, Pope Francis calls each one of us as we leave this house of the Lord and go into the vineyard of the Lord, to cast out our demon of indifference. It’s the demon that dulls to the devastation and diminishment of our home Earth. The demon that causes us to be unconcerned about the health and wholeness of Earth, unconcerned about the Earth we will leave to our children and our children’s children. A demon that makes us unsympathetic to the needs of men, women and children in our own city whose lives are diminished by unfair wages, unemployment and under-employment, lack of adequate housing, lack of proper daycare, lack of care for those suffering from mental and emotional sickness, unconcerned about the racism that exists among us.
In a recent talk given in Equator Pope Francis teaches,’we can no longer turn our backs on our reality, of our brothers and sisters, of mother earth. It is no longer licit for us to ignore what is happening to our surroundings as if certain situations did not exist or have nothing to do with us. Again and again comes the strength of that question of God to Cain: ‘Where is your brother?’” he said. “I ask if our response continues to be: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
Jesus teaches us that we are our brothers and sisters keeper. We are called to cast our demon on indifference and uncaring and be there one another. We can cast out this demon if we remember and live the words of Jesus; as often as you did these things to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did them to me.
By God’s grace may we cast out our demon of indifference and hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.