14th Sun [C] 2007

Fr. Charles Irvin


Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12,17-20

In the gospel account we just heard we see that Our Lord did not send only His apostles into the world to reveal God’s kingdom, He sent others as well. The opening sentence was, “At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.

There were times in our past history when we thought that only bishops, priests, deacons, and nuns could authentically, and with proper authority, present the face of the Church to the world around us. The Second Vatican Council put an end to that sort of thinking. The bishops of the world had a different vision. In their Decree of the Apostolate of the Laity they declared: The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head; incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself. (Documents of Vatican II, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Chapter 1, #3)

These days we are all concerned with the shortage of priests. The numbers of ordained priests are diminishing and our present clergy population is aging, aging rather dramatically and rapidly. This leads many to think of the emerging role of the laity as more of a matter of pragmatic necessity than a renewed vision and understanding of the nature of the Church. I want to stress now the point that the role of the laity is a matter of theology. It is not a matter of personnel management and deployment of resources. It is by your Baptism and by your Confirmation that you are sent by Christ into our world. This is not simply a matter of pragmatic necessity.

Some may be asking what it is they are supposed to be doing. There is no one simple answer to such questioning. This is because there is so much to be done, in so very many areas, in so very different ways.

Said the bishops at the Second Vatican Council: There are innumerable opportunities open to the laity for the exercise of their apostolate of evangelization and sanctification. The very testimony of their Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have the power to draw men to belief and to God… Since, in our own times, new problems are arising and very serious errors are circulating which tend to undermine the foundations of religion, the moral order, and human society itself, this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen-each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning-to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church. (Documents of Vatican II, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Chapter 2, #6)

If we ask the question: “What needs to be done?” we could well spend most of the rest of this day setting forth what Christians need to be doing in our time along with the methods they need to employ in facing the challenges that are out there in the world around us.

Let me suggest that we also need to pay some attention to HOW we should be conducting ourselves as we engage the world around us.

First and foremost in my mind is the Spirit of Kindness that ought to mark the Christian in dealing with the folks around us in our neighborhoods, places of work, and in the volunteer associations in which we find ourselves.

I want to offer you some thoughts on Kindness that appeared on a holy card printed over fifty years ago by the Trappist Monks of Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. Some of you will remember the name of its most famous monk, Thomas Merton.

Back then we heard the term “apostolate” frequently used. The term denotes the fact that we all share in the mission of the Twelve Apostles. All of us, baptized and confirmed as we are, share in the Apostle’s duty and responsibility to bring Christ’s love and values to bear on the world in which we find ourselves.

                                             KINDNESS:

Of all the apostolates open to all of us the most effective, the most far-reaching,
the most consoling is kindness.

Kindness is one of God’s best gifts to the world. It drives gloom and darkness from souls.
It puts hope into fainting hearts. It sweetens sorrow. It lessens pain. It discovers
unsuspected beauties of human character.

It calls forth a response from all that is best in souls. It purifies, glorifies, and ennobles all that it touches.

It opens the floodgates of children’s laughter. It gathers the tears of repentant love.

It lightens the burdens of weariness. It stops the torrent of angry passion. It takes the sting from failure.

It kindles courageous ambition. It lifts the unfortunate. It leads back the wayward.
It walks in the steps of Our Savior.

Let us become apostles of kindness to partake of its sweetness, to aspire to its holiness.
The apostolate of kindness is exalted; it is sublime; it is Christlike.

In addition to the Twelve Apostles, Our Lord appointed a further seventy-two to go into the world and be about the task of revealing God’s kingdom here on earth. No matter what we do, and no matter how we do it, let us always be conscious of the fact that nothing will be accomplished unless we do what we do in the Spirit of Kindness.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”