July 3 at Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Naples, FL
Isaiah 66, 10-14 + Psalm 66 + Galatians 6, 14-18 + Luke 10,12-12 & 17-20
There are a lot of details in this instruction that Jesus gives to disciples sent on mission. When you sum them all up, what it really means is that they are to take nothing at all. He does not send them out with a fist full of pamphlets, the Catechism, or for that matter, a Bible or the Ten Commandments. He doesn’t even tell them what to say. He just sends them, and we can only conclude that the messengers are the message. From the report they give as they return, it was just right.
We have to get over the idea that when Jesus says: “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” he is suggesting that we should pray that someone else will go. That sort of thinking is a bit typical of our age when we see something wrong and think that someone should do something about that when in fact, nothing is going to happen unless we do it. “Go on your way” says Jesus at this moment in this place. You don’t need anything to be a disciple of Jesus on the mission other than the belief that God wants you to go not someone else. Yet, we always think we need something or we’re not good enough, smart enough, free enough, or strong enough to take up the mission of Jesus. To that thinking, Jesus says: You don’t need anything. Pray, and Go. Yet, some people probably think that you need a degree or some special training to be part of the disciple’s mission. Some people think that you have to know how to teach and what to teach. Some people think that we meet Christ by an argument or some intellectual persuasion. That is not what Jesus did. He listened. He touched, He healed. He fed. He forgave. He served. He went to people’s homes. He never avoided those that others chose to avoid or ignore.
What is revealed here is something too often forgotten. It is the simple yet powerful ministry of presence. It is the truth that joyful, kind, merciful, and forgiving people who do not criticize or judge are really nice to be around which is exactly the way Jesus carried on the mission he was given by the Father. Jesus did not call any great scholars, brilliant scribes, or holy Pharisees to be his disciples. He called unskilled, simple working people. He invited them to hang around him for a while to watch and listen. Then he said: “Go.”
This world is still a little short of people who understand that the mission of Jesus was basically a ministry of presence. He simply came to be with us. He did not come to judge or condemn. The only people he criticized were those who criticized others. This world is still a little short of laborers to bring in the harvest. It might be time to stop thinking that someone else should do it. It might be time to get the point of this Gospel. It might be time to recognize that sending 72 rather than the 12 meant that he was sending everybody not just some chosen few.
The mission of Jesus is not served by just the twelve apostles, bishops, priests or deacons. Those barefoot disciples discovered that the message was in the messengers themselves. All they needed was confidence in their faith, hope for the future, and the kindness of love. Evangelization in the style of Jesus is all about presence, just being there. It worked for Jesus. People came from all the place to be around that man who did good, who spoke of peace, and showed mercy.
People who evangelize by their presence are always recognized by their freedom. They can hang out with anyone, without concern for what others might think or say. They notice needs and respond to them with whatever they have. They are not anti-establishment as much as they are simply not impressed by power or prestige. They live today knowing that tomorrow is beyond their control and the future holds promises we can hardly begin to imagine.