15th Sunday in Ordinary time with Sea Sunday

Jesus instructed them to take nothing for the journey.  I do not know about you, but that sends shivers down my spine. ‘To take nothing for the journey.’  I am here in Kendal for two months and I brought down a full car load of stuff.  Multiple suitcases and hand luggage.  Everything I need for an English summer placement.  Five woolly jumpers, a thick coat and several jackets, most of them I have not touched yet since arriving.  I will never learn, everywhere I go, I always seem to take double the amount that I actually need.  So I can imagine the apostles were slightly apprehensive when they could only take a staff in hand. 

So why was poverty so important to their mission?  We can only guess the answer and say that the apostles had to learn not to rely on their own resources, but only on God’s abundant providence.  Since they were doing God’s work, God would take care of their daily needs.  This simplicity of life would help them stay free of distractions and focus wholly on their mission, which was to preach the gospel message out of love and not for the desire of gain.  When the time for food and shelter was needed they would call for hospitality in those to whom they ministered to. 

In the Jewish tradition hospitality was common for travellers to be welcomed without any warning into homes along their way, since not many villages would have an inn to stay at.  So, Jesus’ instruction to stay in one place and not to move from house to house would also stop any rivalry among other villagers wishing to host them, making sure they did not get distracted from looking for upgraded accommodation.

This weekend is Sea Sunday and we are supporting the charity called Stella Maris or the former name is the Apostleship of the Sea, a Catholic charity that helps and support seafarers when they are in foreign ports.  The seafarers often do not speak the local language making things difficult, especially when they require help and support to gain access to the local shops, internet access, taking them to Church for Mass or Confession.  The chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris listen to their needs and help to provide it.  These people are answering Jesus’ call to give hospitality to the stranger.

Seafarers work long shifts, and many have not been home for ages, they are far away from family and friends, working in difficult hazardous conditions with varying harsh weather conditions fighting against them.  So, please do keep them in your prayers.

I also believe it is tradition in this parish to link the homily to a movie.  So, I have chosen Titanic.  The RMS Titanic sank on April 15th in 1912 ending its maiden voyage across the Atlantic sea, 1,503 people lost their lives in the icy waters.  Onboard the Titanic was a priest Fr Thomas Byles who was only 42 years old.  He is known for his heroic actions during the sinking. 

When Fr Thomas was in his 10th year into his Priesthood, his brother asked him to celebrate their wedding in New York, so Fr Thomas boarded the Titanic as a second class passenger.  While onboard he would celebrate Mass for the 2nd and 3rd class passengers, and his last sermon was explaining that the prayers and sacraments of the Church were our spiritual lifeboats, when we are in danger from the spiritual shipwreck of temptation. 

According to eyewitnesses, Fr Thomas was out on deck praying his breviary shortly before midnight, when the ship hit an iceberg.  When the captain ordered the launching of the lifeboats, Fr Thomas made his way to help people navigate the stairwells to the upper deck, but many found themselves trapped behind locked iron gates.  Fr Thomas calmly led the third-class passengers to where the lifeboats were located.  He was asked to enter into one of the lifeboats but Fr Thomas refused.  When the ship was going down Fr Thomas was with the people from all different religions, and they were saying the rosary together and Fr Thomas was praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish.  To many he administered the last rites and gave absolution from their sins.  Fr Thomas was an extraordinary man who gave his life for others, and his actions were praised by Pope Pius X.

May we keep the work of Sea chaplains in our daily prayers, and the work of Stella Maris volunteers who continually keep seafarers safe and well provided for, through generous donations throughout the world. 

And with your help today in prayers and donations, we can confidently say we are answering Jesus’ call to give hospitality to the stranger.

I would like to finish by saying the words from the 1st verse of a well know hymn:

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm does bind the restless wave,

Who bids the mighty ocean deep,

Its own appointed limits keep;

O hear us when we cry to Thee

For those in peril on the sea.

May the souls who have been lost at Sea and of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.