Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist
[Scripture Readings: II Timothy 4:9-17a; Luke 10: 1-9]
In his Rule, St. Benedict places his chapter on “Impossible Assignments” (68) well towards the end of his total of 73 chapters. Perhaps he wanted the monks to get some good experience under their belts before dealing with this issue. But in fact, we usually have to confront impossible situations early on in our monastic careers. We quickly run into situations that are beyond our capacities and abilities. This should not be surprising, since monastic life is responding to a call which is beyond our strengths, skills or will power. To venture out into the desert and solitude—localized in the monastic enclosure—is to confront a situation by intention and definition beyond our human strengths.
Of course, we well know that we can fall short of meeting this challenge. We can turn our backs, shut down, get depressed, devise alternate enterprises, or develop forms of regressive behavior. The real tragedies of life are often created by these forms of shrinking back from what life is asking of us.
Luke seems to understand this “call of the impossible” as being at the heart of the church. His gospel is sometimes called the “gospel of the poor” , “the gospel of the outcast, of women, of the sick, of the Gentiles.” It should also be called the “gospel of the impossible.” In the early scene of the Annunciation, Mary asks, “How can this be?” and the angel says, “All things are possible for God.” When Jesus says how hard it is for the rich to be saved and the disciples ask “who then can be saved?” Jesus says, “For men it is impossible, but it is possible for God.” In the Agony in the Garden, Jesus asks if it is possible, let the cup be taken away. The Resurrection is impossible. There are a number of instances when what is humanly impossible become possible because of the nearness of the Kingdom in Jesus. The gospel is not about creating settlements of security and safety. It is about moving us to the brink between what is impossible for humans but what is possible for God.
Instead of properly equipping his disciples to go out on their mission, Jesus strips them of what they have. “Take nothing with you on the journey.” It is the gospel they are to preach, not themselves. Their belongings, education, status, impressive resumés will only get in the way of what their mission is. They are preaching a crucified and self-emptying Lord and the medium should correspond to the message. They are called to be transparent witnesses and will do so by lives of DETACHMENT and DISAPPROPRIATION.
Jesus not only sends them out with next to nothing, but he also sends them out into foreign, hostile, and maybe even enemy territory. It is as if we were sent into Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus or Beijing. Go into this territory and “Accept what is set before you … Do not move from house to house.” Enter into table fellowship in a way which takes you beyond your ritual identifications. Accept hospitality from those with whom you think you have nothing in common. Live in a sense of DEPENDENCE which awakens you to your own needs and your relations with others.
And let your first word be “peace.” This is not just saying “Hold your fire, and I’ll hold mine.” Not just a stalemate of a non-aggression pact. It is the recognition of a common and shared humanity, reconciled by the presence of God in history. The message of the angels, the first evangelists, in Bethlehem was “Peace.” Peace is the communion of God with humanity. This is the nearness of the Kingdom. Those who have been evangelized by the Word of this communion can be bearers of this gospel to others. They know the DEFENSELESSNESS of the child in the manger who remained DISARMED throughout his life. His disciples are called to this impossible way of life.
Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist
[Scripture Readings: 2Tim. 4: 9-17a; Lk. 10: 1-9 ]
A quandary that we can find ourselves in, one that probably most of us have found ourselves in at one time or another is to have a job to do and realize that our skills fall short of what we have been asked to accomplish. We can try to rearrange the situation to fit our expectations and desires, but that isn’t always possible. Even if it is possible, we could end up doing something other than what we were asked to do. It is becoming almost a truism to hear that we all have a role to play in the Church’s mission of evangelization. How are we to go about this both individually, and especially in harmony with one another? Our situations differ. Our talents differ. Our understandings about the kingdom of God differ.
I doubt that our situation is all that much different than that of the disciples in this morning’s gospel. Seventy-two human beings are bound to come from different backgrounds, have different skills and different views on just about everything. That does not seem to have concerned the Lord. He told them that he was sending them out like lambs into the midst of wolves and gave them minimal instructions. Two things are important: the world’s need and relying on God for guidance and support.
Rather than expecting reality to conform to my desires, the message I hear in today’s gospel is to accept reality as it is available to me and do the task that I have been given. Every situation is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel and announce the nearness of the kingdom of God. St. Paul could proclaim the gospel from prison, because the word of God cannot be confined by chains and walls. Besides, people who are imprisoned, and not only by chains and walls, need to hear the gospel too.
The nearness of the kingdom of God is the result of Christ’s presence. We are the body of Christ and we have the opportunity to be the presence of Christ in whatever situation we are in. As members of the body of Christ we have different roles to fulfill in bringing Christ to the world. For some proclaiming the gospel will be through the more obvious role of using the spoken word. All of us are called to proclaim the gospel through our way of life. Does my life reflect a vibrant faith in words of Jesus Christ? Does our communal life reflect a way of life guided by the gospel of Jesus Christ? If the way we live does not proclaim the gospel, our words and the words of those who are united with us will have little to no credibility. Special tasks call for special skills, but all of us are capable of living a life in communion with God and in service to our brothers and sisters. We have the support and guidance that we need in the word of God and the sacraments. It is up to us to use them and to act on them. This is not an option for us to consider. We have been commissioned and equipped and sent by the Lord.