In our first reading we heard about the rejection of Paul and his companions by the leaders of the synagogue in Antioch. Paul responds by telling them they’ve had their chance to hear the good news of Jesus and that by refusing to listen, they were the losers. Paul would take his message to the Gentiles.
The Gentiles were non Jewish people and were considered as of less value to those who saw themselves as the people of God. Gentiles were shunned by Jews and any Jew who socialized with them was considered to be in danger of being contaminated by pagan ways. But the Gentiles were good men and women who lived their lives according to their own lights and beliefs.
Who are the gentiles of today? Who are the people who need to hear the good news that they are important to God, acceptable to God, loved by God and their lives would be different if God was important to them. Today’s Gentiles could be unchurched men and women, friends we know who may have come from a catholic or non- catholic family background but were only exposed to a primitive form of religious education. Or they are people we’ve called ‘recovering Catholics’, good men and women who were raised in a very strict family or experienced an unbending parish life, good people who were never encouraged to think for themselves but to do what they were told, good people who won’t go back to the old ways and mind sets. Today’s Gentiles are successful career oriented young people who are living the good life but are totally un interested in God or the things of God. Then there are men and women who lived in good parishes and went to catholic schools but now are totally indifferent to life in the church. We have good people totally scandalize by the sexual crimes of priests and the cover-up or denial of bishops and want nothing to do with the church. These are all good people.
On this Sunday we are asked to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It’s no secret we have a shortage of vocations in our archdiocese and in every diocese in Canada. At different times I’ve asked young men in the parish if they ever thought of becoming a priest. They look at me as if I was out of my mind. Personally I’m happy to be a priest, always have been, because my priesthood has been blessed and supported by good people like you.
By our baptism we are all members of the priesthood of all believers. Priests preach the good news of Jesus Christ who died on the cross to restore us to the life and love of God. Every one of us is to witness to the truth of God’s love for all by how we live out our own faith. As one saying goes ‘we may be the only bible people will ever read ‘ or as St. Francis is supposed to have said, ‘ preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.’ We are all meant to draw other people to God and Jesus by the way we live our own Catholic Christian faith, by what we say, by what we do, by the way we relate to others.
We are to make our faith authentic; believable to others by the way we live this Mass outside these walls. We make our faith convictions attractive to others when in our social life or places of work we refuse to tolerate expressions of bigotry, misogyny, racism or homophobia. We make our faith authentic when we get involved in the struggles of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the beaten down men, women and children of Toronto.
Could we imagine that can follow the example of Paul and Barnabas and reach out to the Gentiles in our lives and through the simple, unpretentious living of our lives lure them back to a vital relationship with Christ in the family of our church?
Think about it.