July 11, 2021 Father De Celles Homily

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 11, 2021

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

It’s good to see all of you today.

A lot of people have been asking me

          if our Mass attendance is back to pre-Covid levels.

Certainly are numbers are up from two months ago,

          but I don’t think we’re back at a 100%.

But it’s hard to tell, especially since it’s summer now,

          and during pre-Covid summers our numbers are always lower

          than the rest of the year.

Because a lot of our people are away on summer vacations.

People are traveling, some on short weekend trips, and others on long journeys.

Some people like to say that “life is like a journey.”

If that’s the case, then it seems some people–probably most of us

          –would like that journey to be a vacation: lots of fun and entertainment.

Others might like that journey to be sort of like a business trip

          –very productive and with a specific material goal.

But for Christians life should be more like a pilgrimage.

Some people plan their vacations to the tee:

          –they labor over the decision as to where to go:

                   should they visit family or friends?

                   should they have a recreational vacation with sports or camping?

                   or should they have a cultural vacation

                             in some foreign or historic place?

          –they pick all the hotels where they’ll stay for the best combination of

                   location, price, and comfort.

          –they carefully plan their itinerary even to the hour

                   so that they can see all the sites or visit their friends.

          –they save up money, search for the good restaurants

                   and over-pack huge suitcases.

Most people want their vacation to be comfortable

          or exciting or adventuresome or entertaining

          –somehow pleasurable to themselves.

Even when we visit family, we like to be entertained and play the tourist

          –how many of us have had to play tour guides to the Mall

                   or to Mount Vernon

                   for visiting family or friends in the last few years?

Even business travelers look for comfort and distracting entertainment

          on their trips,

          and those trips are in their nature usually directed toward

                   meeting certain material goals of the individual or their organization.

But a pilgrimage is different.

It’s not made for the pleasure involved.

It isn’t about being entertained or having the most comfortable accommodations

          or the best food

                   –in fact, many pilgrimages specifically avoid those things.

Pilgrimages are made—or should be made–for only one purpose: to glorify God.

Maybe that’s done by the sacrifices made on the journey,

          or by being spiritually refreshed by the piety of the place we visit.

But pilgrimages are never just about the specific place we’re going,

          or what we’ll do there

          –it’s about the whole trip, why we go, how we go, where we go

                   –with the destination of course setting the whole tone for the trip.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends His 12 Apostles on a journey

          –and it’s not a vacation, or even a business trip, but a sort of pilgrimage.

But where is this pilgrimage going?

At first it seems that they have no particular place to go–Jesus tells them:

          “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.”

But the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians

          puts this in perspective;

                    He tells us that it is God’s plan from the beginning:

                             “to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.”

The pilgrimage the Apostles make is a pilgrimage to Christ

          –specifically a journey to become one with Christ.

And on their pilgrimage the Apostles are specifically called

          to bring others with them, to bring everyone that they meet to Christ,

                   so that “all things” may be one in Him.

And they went out and “preached repentance.”

Jesus tells the 12:

          “Take nothing for the journey but a walking stick

                   —no food, no sack, no money in [your] belts…. [no] second tunic…

                             Wherever you enter a house, stay there.”

They take nothing with them,

          because all the pilgrim needs is those things which bring him to Christ.

He cares not about food, nor nice clothing, nor even about where he sleeps.

He focuses only on Christ, who is not only the end of the journey,

          but also the way he travels, and how he travels.

As St. Paul tells us: God

          “destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ “

          and it is “In [Christ] we have redemption by his blood.”

And the pilgrimage of the Apostles doesn’t stop

          when they come back from this particular trip described in today’s Gospel.

And it doesn’t stop even with their death.

Their pilgrimage goes on in the Church

          –the Church which is one body with Christ as the head.

As the Second Vatican Council taught, the Church on earth is a “Pilgrim Church.”

Our final destination is Christ Himself–complete and perfect unity with Him in heaven,

          and through Him, complete and perfect unity with Our Heavenly Father.


We are pilgrims on this earth

          –our Christian calling, or “Christian vocation”, is to be pilgrims.

We’re not on vacation–we’re not called to be tourists in this world.

Life is hard, and living the Christian life well can be even harder.

We do not seek first

          the best food or the best accommodations or to be entertained.

Pilgrims do not seek first to enjoy their travels,

          even though their travels are meant to be joyful spiritually

                    –and can even wind up being pleasurable in the material sense.

I mean, when I make a pilgrimage to Rome,

          I wind up enjoying great food and beautiful art

          because that’s what you find in Rome.

But it’s when the refreshment and comfort that comes

          in the passing distractions or pleasures of this world, take precedence,

          or are in any way taken out of the context of the pilgrimage toward Christ,

                   –when the lives we lead seek comfort

                             at the expense of the plan Christ has revealed to His Church,

                   or when it in any way contradicts or undermines

                             our unity with Christ and unity with the Church,

                   –then we have left the pilgrimage….

                             and gone on vacation from our vocation as Christians.


In spite of the fact that we’re created for this pilgrimage,

          still, God doesn’t force us to come along: it is a calling, an invitation.

And in spite of the fact that Christ later tells His apostles:

          “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”

                   He also knows  that many will freely choose not to join the pilgrimage.

And so He tells His Apostles:

          “Whatever place does not welcome you

                   …leave there and shake the dust off your feet

                             in testimony against them.”

You can’t force others to answer the call to pilgrimage,

          but you also can’t allow them to keep you

                   from going ahead on the pilgrimage.

Christ calls all of us today to renew our commitment and enthusiasm

          of the pilgrimage to Him and the Father.

He calls the professional, the homemaker, the soldier, the student,

          the little child, the priest

                   –He calls all of us to this journey.

Sometimes we’re reluctant to proceed on this pilgrimage:

          if life is going to be a journey,

                   we’d rather it be a vacation where we can enjoy ourselves

                             –and very few people are reluctant to take a vacation.

Or at least we’d prefer the journey to be a business trip

          so we can make a little profit from our efforts.

Even the prophet Amos in today’s first reading

          tells us that he didn’t want to be a prophet,

          he was reluctant to leave his work

                   as a shepherd and dresser of sycamores.

But as it is with all of us, God told called Amos to the pilgrimage:

          “GO, prophesy to my people.”

So as we continue to rightly enjoy the summer,

          and as we find ourselves on a well-deserved vacation,

          or as we keep working as we see other people taking off on vacations,

          consider the instruction of Christ to His Apostles:

                   “Take nothing for the journey but a walking stick

                             —no food, no sack, no money in [your] belts….

                                      [no] second tunic…

                             Wherever you enter a house, stay there.”

And ask yourself, do I live my Christian life like a tourist on vacation,

          or like a pilgrim on a quest for Him in whom I am created,

                    moving toward the summation [unity] of all things in Jesus Christ?