16 Jul 2012
Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 15, 2012
July 15, 2012
By Father J. Daniel Atkins, Holy Family Catholic Church, New Albany, Indiana
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.”
The second century Church Father Tertullian once wrote: “Solus Christianus, nullus Christianus.” Roughly translated that means “A Christian who goes it alone is no Christian.” Tertullian was explaining why our Lord sent his apostles out in pairs to announce the arrival of God’s Kingdom, to heal the sick, and cast out evil spirits. Apostles are not Lone Rangers, he said. Norbertine Father John Bostwick agrees: “Following Jesus, indeed, engaging in his mission, is an arduous task. One needs the support of a companion, someone with whom to share the joys and challenges of life “on the Way” that is Christ. One needs a friend who will encourage, challenge and, if need be, confront and correct, but mostly to share life.”
Not everyone would agree with Tertullian that there is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. More and more people today are insisting that they do not need the Church; they do not need a community of believers who will both encourage and challenge them in their spiritual life. They have decided to go it alone. They describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. “If I am all right with Jesus,” they say, “I don’t need the Church. My faith is just my own little inner voice.” What’s underneath this spiritual individualism?
Presbyterian pastor Scott Johnson’s has come up with a profile of the Lone Ranger Christian:
- The Lone Ranger Christian does not submit to any church authority. He’s really not opposed to authority per se. It’s just that he himself is his own authority. He answers only to himself.
- The Lone Ranger Christian does not commit to any church community. He may enjoy Christian gatherings…but his fellowship with other believers is always on his terms. He will even come to church to worship. But he won’t commit to the church. If he tires of one preacher, or if he gets bored with one church’s worship service, or if too many people rub him the wrong way, it’s “Hi-ho Silver, Away”.
- The Lone Ranger Christian values his personal experience and beliefs over church teaching. Ultimately what makes Church teachings right is not that they agree with Scripture, or with historic Christian orthodoxy, but that they are in line (with his beliefs, his lifestyle, his personal needs)
Why did Jesus send each of the apostles out with a companion? Why did he tell us, “He who does not gather with me scatters”? Surely it was to guard us against this type of mentality. St. John tells us that Jesus knew the human heart and its vulnerabilities. Jesus knew the perils of go-it-alone/do-it-yourself spirituality.
Perhaps the rule of the St. Vincent de Paul Society says it best when it explains why Vincentians work in pairs. The rule says:
The number two conveys and articulates community. We visit homes in pairs; we deliver food in pairs; we meet our families to pay their rent in pairs. As Vincentians teams we continually strive to avoid the temptation of making the work about us as individuals. At times, it might be easier to just take a few dollars out of our own pockets and give to a family rather than working through the conference. But how many of us have been tempted to at least once pay for something ourselves that our conference has voted against. To give in to that temptation would be to work against all that the Society stands for and the process we have agreed upon. It would make the work about us and lead those we serve to feel grateful to us and not the One we serve.
May the Lord Jesus grant us this week – and always – a companion who will walk with us, encourage us, and challenge us if need be as we do our little part of work he has entrusted to us.