4 July 2010
Luke 10.1-12, 17-20
Many years ago at the height of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, a Catholic priest went across the road to the local Protestant church to wish the minister and his congregation a happy Christmas. The minister received him warmly, reciprocated his greeting and later made a return visit. However, some of the elders of his church reacted angrily and took steps to have the minister removed from the parish. These two clergymen were only doing what Christ would want them to do – to be instruments of peace in a divided and troubled society.
In the gospel today when Jesus sends out the 72 disciples he says that their first words on entering a house were to be: ‘Peace to this house’. They were to be ambassadors of peace and goodwill. Of course, true peace must be based on justice.
Peace is not a negative thing. It is not just the absence of war or enmity. Peace is a positive thing. It implies openness, tolerance, friendship, goodwill, hospitality and reconciliation. Neither does it mean just a feeling of well-being but above all the peace between God and man / woman. Peace is especially a gift from God. God’s great gift is peace. It is a source of joy for all people. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says: “my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this my gift to you.”
In Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus gives us the Beatitudes, in verse 10:9 he says: Happy the peacemakers for they shall be children of God’. So peacemakers are those who reconcile and are reconciled. In Hebrew the word for peace is ‘Shalom’ which means to be complete or to experience wholeness. It does not mean the absence of difficulties or even suffering but deep down one is at peace. A God gifted peace ultimately means real liberation. We are at peace because we are free or detached from many things which could enslave us.
Working for peace means welcoming people who are close to us, those who annoy or disagree with us, even those who cause anguish within us. Shortly before Communion the priest invites us to offer each other a sign of peace. The hand that we reach out to our neighbour is the same hand with which we receive Jesus in Communion.
It is interesting that when Jesus sends out his 72 disciples he sends them out in pairs, meaning they cannot be effective ministers to others unless they are at peace and in communion with each other. We are called into community. It is about living in right relationships with all others.
Where are you and I in all this? Do we pray to God for the gift of peace, not only for ourselves but also for others and for the world at large? Is there anyone we are not presently at peace with? Are we sharers of God’s gift of peace not only with those near us at Mass but also with others at all other times? Are we peacemakers in our world as the Beatitudes speak about?
In St. Luke’s gospel, ch.9 Jesus associates the 12 Apostles with his mission. In today’s gospel he associates 72 others. Little by little he will call on the help of more and more people to assist him. Today’s gospel is a gospel for all people, not just for priests and religious. Every baptised Christian and indeed all people of goodwill are invited by Jesus to work with him against all that is opposed to the kingdom of his Father which he came to establish on earth. Each one of us is called by God, depending on our particular vocation, to spread the Good News.
Jesus emphasises the importance of freedom for the disciples. ‘Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals’ (v.4), in other words do not trust your possessions, do not rely on them too much. He is not saying we should get rid of all we possess. But he is warning us against carrying too much baggage with us on our journey through life. Possessions may tempt to compromise us. If we truly believe that we are totally and unconditionally loved by God, and this is not as easy as it seems, then that is where we are invited to get our peace and joy from and no one can take away that conviction if we truly believe it. Then we can be free of the baggage we may have put too much trust in before – what others think of us, our possessions, our academic qualifications or our status in society etc.
At the end of the gospel the apostles return from their mission overjoyed at their success. But Jesus warns them that miracles are no guarantee that it is God’s work. He cautions them against putting too much emphasis on the successes of their pastoral ministry. If they are following the guidelines of Jesus sooner or later they will face opposition. People get tired of miracles as Jesus himself experienced. Despite all people had seen they still crucified him. The real Good News as Jesus tells them is that ‘their names are written on heaven’. This is a totally free gift on God’s part. He offers it to us freely also.
“Lord Jesus, we may lose our possessions, our health, the good name we have but your love for us is total and constant. May we allow you to use us to bring about your kingdom here on earth. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA