I think to truly understand the significance of this date, we have to understand what the world was like when these events were occurring. Mexico had been at war with America, followed by it's own internal civil war and was nearly out of resources. Many lives had been lost, the treasury itself was almost bankrupt and the people were prime targets for occupation. The United States were embroiled in their own civil war and couldn't pay attention to the geopolitical maneuvering that was going on. Many countries decided to demand payment from Mexico for it's debts to them, but only the French saw this as an opportunity to gain new lands and peoples. So they attacked the Mexican country and even though the French military was considered strong and enormously better trained and equipped than the small Mexican force, yet, the Mexican army "crushed" the premier army of the world.
Eventually the French did take over the Mexican government but were expelled a few years later. The US began to get involved, the Mexican people continued to revolt never giving up, and all of these situations caused Napoleon to retreat. This is a decisive moment in history not just for the Mexican people, but for the entire continent. In fact, many historians believe that had the French maintained their hold in Mexico from the onset of this war they would have joined the southern forces to overthrow the northern yankees and our country would have turned out much differently than it did. Lots of repercussions there that we need to understand as a people.
What does that have to do with the readings for today? I think the first reading shows us a good example of exactly what the Mexican people did. They were grounded. They planted themselves where they needed to be. They never gave up on their cause, even when they suffered defeat. The Apostle Paul was not always successful. Just the other day we read about his failure at the Areopagus, where people basically said "call me some other time, not interested." Now we see him working tirelessly at a trade to support himself while still trying to spread the Gospel. Then a few friends come and begin to support him so he can work at preaching instead of making tents. Even then, with 100% of his efforts concentrated he begins to lose his temper and claims he's finished with the Jews. But God isn't! Paul ends up moving in with a man who lives next to the synagogue and all of a sudden the leader of that synagogue and his entire family converted! Paul kept working, even when it seemed it wasn't going his way. His friends backed him, supported him and worked with him. No matter what failures, no matter what successes... they still worked preaching the word of God.. just like the Mexican people on Cinco de Mayo, they fought against odds that the rest of the world would never have faced, and were triumphant.
I think that's our lesson for today. To stand our ground, to move when God needs us to move, to fight when God needs us to fight, and to preach when God needs us to preach. How though do we prepare for all of this? How do we get ready for knowing where God wants us? How do we know when it's time to preach, when it's time to make tents, or when it's time to move shake out our garments and move on to a new household? The Gospel reminds us of that simple truth. Jesus disciples were a bit confused when he said: “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.” We 2000 years later, in light of much theological thought and discussion have a glimpse into that truth. Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit to not only lead us, to guide us and teach us, but also to make bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. That's how we see him in the most substantial and present way we can on this side of Heaven. Though he went away physically in his human, glorified body; he comes back every time we gather to worship. When the Priest lifts up that Host and says the words of consecration, do you realize that is the fulfillment of that promise? "You will see me."
So when we receive him, when we gather together and proclaim to be Christian, we have to ask ourselves.. have we shaken out the dust of our cloaks? As I was reading the office of readings this morning, these verses stuck out in my head:
let no one deceive you;
the man who acts in holiness is holy indeed,
even as the Son is holy.
The man who sins belongs to the devil,
because the devil is a sinner from the beginning.
It was to destroy the devil’s works
that the Son of God revealed himself.
No one begotten of God acts sinfully
because he remains of God’s stock;
he cannot sin
because he is begotten of God.
That is the way to see who are God’s children,
and who are the devil’s.
No one whose actions are unholy belongs to God,
nor anyone who fails to love his brother.
When Paul shook his cloak he was getting rid of everything he felt was wrong with that place, even the dust of the air. How about you? Your body is the temple of God, your spiritual covering... have you shaken out those things which are unholy? Or are you clinging to some of that dust? What stands between you and being the kind of man/woman that God has created you to be? It's been 40 days since Easter Sunday, have you transformed your life? Or are you back in the same old ruts? We have work to do Church.
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."