(First published in the West Nebraska Register on July 15, 2016; http://now.dirxion.com/West_Nebraska_Register/library/West_Nebraska_Register_07_15_2016.pdf#page=1&zoom=100.)
After completing four weeks of Totus Tuus, the teachers were rewarded with a week break to celebrate the 4th of July.
During the time off, I took a road trip to Afton, Wyo. There’s a family out there that are close friends of mine. They live in Afton and the closest Catholic Church is about 20 miles away. This church has a cool story to it because five years ago this church building didn’t exist. The church is in Star Valley in Wyoming. The Valley includes about 19 towns and this is the only Catholic Church in those 19 towns.
Where I grew up there was at least one Catholic Church within an hour of where I was at any given time, but before this building was built and the church was built, there just simply wasn’t a Catholic Church in the area, and the fact is amazing to me. The church isn’t always packed like it was this weekend, but there is always a number of families in attendance, even when it’s not tourist season.
I was lucky enough to be at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Thane, Wyo., just a week after the fourth anniversary of the church and the homily and reading from that weekend were exactly what I needed to re-inspire me to finish out my summer of Totus Tuus on a strong note.
If you went to church the weekend of July 3 you heard the same Gospel reading from Luke as I did, but in this packed church that didn’t exist four years ago it did something special in my heart. The reading was about sending 72 disciples out to preach in various towns.
Luke 10:2 says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few…” and Luke 10:8-11 says, “Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.'”
The homily from Deacon Bill Hill expressed the idea that we are all called to go out and preach the Gospel wherever we go. In this passage the Lord isn’t only talking to those specific 72 disciples, but instead He is talking to all of us. He is asking all of us to go out and do His work. But, He does warn us that sometimes there will be push back and not everyone will be willing to receive us.
This family I visited has six kids and they are outcasts in their school and town because of their Catholic faith.
They are made fun of, excluded from activities, and criticized for their beliefs and for their dedication to the faith.When thinking about that family, listening to that homily, and looking around at that wonderful little parish in the middle of nowhere, I was suddenly more than ready to get back to Totus Tuus.
This summer God called me to be a Totus Tuus teacher and to do exactly that same thing that He asked of those 72. He wants me to go out and spread His message. To share His story with children all over the Diocese of Grand Island, but more than that He called me to be a witness to His love to everyone I come in contact with this summer, and for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, during Totus Tuus, there isn’t usually much push back about the Catholic faith, but during my time teaching, I am instilling in myself and in the kids I teach, that being a witness to the love of God—and thus the faith—should be something we all do everyday.
This reading from Luke comes from the same chapter of some of my favorite verses in the Bible.
Luke 10: 27 says, “…‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’”
If the kids I teach this summer learn nothing except two things, this is what I want them to learn: God always loves you and it’s our job to show that love to everyone else every day.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. -1 Peter 3:15