Thursday, September 30, 2010

We give what we are able; the rest God will provide (Reflections on Luke 10:1-12)

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. 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.'

Two things stand out in today’s gospel as Jesus sends out his disciples to preach the Good News for the first time. First, he sends them out, not individually, but in pairs. One would think that they could reach more places if they went out individually; but that doesn’t seem to be what Jesus had in mind.

If the Gospel was to be preached, this was to be done not by an individual alone, but by an individual disciple with his fellow disciples. The message of Christ is to be brought to the world, not by individual believers, acting on their own, but always with the community the church in mind.

Living the faith and sharing it, are never individual and personal matters alone. We live our faith, and witness to it—always with an awareness and appreciation of the fact that we are part of a larger community, the church.

For the true follower of Christ, and for us Catholics especially, for whom “church” and “community” are such important realities, there is no such thing as “Jesus and me”. It’s always “Jesus, myself, and my community”.

Second, he tells the disciples to bring the barest essentials for their journey and their mission. This meant, on the one hand, that they could not bring more than what they needed. On the other hand, it also meant that they shouldn’t go out empty handed. They did have to take something: “a walking stick, a tunic, and sandals”. The admonition was not that they should bring nothing, but only that they took what was truly needed for the task at hand.

We do have to bring something of our own, something of our very selves, our strengths, talents, and abilities to the task Christ has given us. We are, in a very real sense, God’s ‘cooperators’, ‘coworkers’, and ‘instruments’.

Such cooperation, however, always means two things. First, it means that we must meet God “halfway”. We bring to him, and offer the totality of ourselves, holding nothing back—even if that totality may seem insignificant and inadequate at times. Second, it means that we must trust that no matter how insufficient our gifts might seem for the work we are given, God will always provide and supply what may be lacking both in our efforts as well as in our selves.

One who follows Jesus’ admonition in today’s gospel to “take nothing,” will, in his life, ministry and work, never find himself wanting.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)