FOURTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
July 3rd 2016. Gospel: Luke 10:1-12; 17-20
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio's homily follows the Gospel
GOSPEL: Luke 10:1-12. 17-20
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, 'The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, "Peace to this house!" And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, "The kingdom of God is very near to you". But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, . "We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near." I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.
The seventy-two came back rejoicing. 'Lord,' they said 'even the devils submit to us when we use your name.' He said to them, 'I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.'
THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.
SUMMARY OF THE HOMILY
This Gospel contains a manifesto for Christian missionary activity. By virtue of our baptism we have all been given a particular mission by Christ, and this mission includes every word that we say and every action that we undertake. Before embarking on any course of action, we must ask: Does this derive from my relationship with Christ? Or does it come solely from me? The Gospel contains detailed instructions on how we are to carry out our mission:
1. Our actions must be grounded in Christ;
2. They must be carried out in communion with the Church;
3. They give us power over the one who seeks to destroy communion and tries to sow divisions/compromises/ambiguities within each of us;
4 To be missionaries we must simply be missionaries - no equipment or resources are essential;
5 We must wear the single garment that is our Christian identity and never exchange it for any other garment.
The homily now follows . . .
All of our actions must be measured against a simple standard: Do they originate in our relationship with Christ
Sunday's Gospel passage recounts how Jesus sent his disciples out on mission. We shouldn't read this text as if it were just an interesting description of the mission of the apostles. Mission is an intrinsic part of the life of every baptized person, and this text must be read as if it were spoken directly to each of us.
The first important point to be drawn from the text is that Jesus calls the disciples to himself and then sends them out on mission. Mission is something that has its source in Christ, not in us. Many of the things that we do, originate in our own designs, plans, or instincts. And the things that come purely from us also finish with us. But things that derive from our relationship with Christ have influence that goes far beyond the immediacy of what we do or say. We should be extremely fearful of things that do not originate solidly in our relationship with Christ. Everything that we do or say, or omit to do, must be evaluated against that standard.
How can we know if our actions truly have their origin in Christ? The first thing is simply to ask ourselves each time we do or say anything: "Does this originate in my relationship with Jesus?" This simple habit provokes the kind of self-awareness that leads to wisdom, enabling the person to distinguish between acts that stem from Jesus or simply from us. But if one does not even bother to ask this question then one will never attain the capacity for discernment.
Christian missionary activity is not individualistic. It must be done in communion with the Church and others
Jesus calls the disciples to himself and sends them out in twos. Christian mission generally does not involve solitude. There are many reasons why it is better to go on mission in twos, and these have been highlighted by the fathers of the church and others. But the principle reason is that of communion. "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them". To work in twos means to avoid the self-deception of being autonomous. It means to work in a context in which each one is encouraged, constrained and measured by another.
Working in communion with others gives power over the devil, who seeks to destroy communion
Working in pairs in this way, according to the text, gives the disciples power over unclean spirits. What does this mean? It means that this communion of discipleship gives power over that which seeks to destroy communion. The Holy Spirit is the one who creates communion and the devil is the one who destroys it. In fact, the word "diabolic" originally means "he who divides". The one who is in communion has power over that which seeks to destroy our communion with God and with our neighbour; namely, the spirit of impurity, that leads us to ambiguities and compromises within ourselves. Discipleship, then, involves communion with the church and with others, and gives the power to confront the personal principle of evil in the world.
The mission of the church is not just some activity that gives us consolation or meaning. It is a project against the origin of evil itself. Our baptismal calling involves a communion with Christ that entails engaging in a battle against that which leads to unhappiness in the world. The Gospel passage then goes on to give some important instructions about how we should embark on this mission.
To be a good missionary, a person must simply be grounded in Christ. Material resources, techniques and structures are secondary
The missionary is not to take purse, haversack or sandals. These objects represent all of the supports that we have in this world. In order to complete our mission none of these things are essential. This instruction of Jesus is striking! Often when we embark on pastoral projects the first thing we think of is monetary and material resources. According to our modern criteria, Jesus would have been a hopeless organiser of pastoral initiatives! When Jesus sent people on mission he asked simply that they be missionaries, not that they be furnished with the materials "necessary" for mission. This is a very important point. In order to be a good father or mother, the essential thing is to be a good father or mother, not merely to have all of the material things that are useful for parenting. To exercise the priestly ministry well, similarly, one must simply be a good priest. The structures and techniques that complement good parenthood, or good priestly ministry, are important, but one must first have the essential characteristic that gives value to everything else.
Reception and rejection of the Gospel
What a marvellous text with which to contemplate the nature of our mission as Christians! We are told to stay in a house in a given district until our work is finished in that area. This refers to the fact that our missionary work should not lead us to have transitory or fleeting relationships with people, but we should remain in communication with people for as long as the Lord decrees is necessary. Sometimes, even pastorally, we jump from one relationship to another without ever really engaging in serious communication with people.
The Gospel passage also deals with the theme of the rejection of the Gospel. When someone rejects the Gospel then this is something that must be acknowledged and accepted. The shaking off of the dust from one's feet is not an act that needs to be physically carried out. It is a symbolic act whereby we acknowledge that the Gospel has been rejected and we move on.
A Christian who accepts his mission can bring about conversion and change of heart. The various orders that Jesus gives in this passage are a veritable course of formation in Christian mission. What a beautiful mandate from Jesus! By following these instructions we are given authority over unclean spirits and attain the power to heal humanity of the illnesses that obstruct our conformity to Christ. What great things we are called to do as part of our wonderful faith!