(Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a disciple – a follower of Jesus – in the world today. I asked myself, “If I were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me? What kind of a disciple am I anyway? Do I bring peace and joy – the gift of the presence of Christ – to everyone I meet?”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends 70 disciples into the surrounding towns and villages that He intends to visit. Their mission is to prepare the hearts and minds of the people who live there – so that they will be ready to receive Jesus when He comes. But before sending out His disciples, Jesus gives them some guidelines, guidelines that also apply to those of us who wish to be His disciples today.
First of all, before we head out into the world, Jesus tells us that we need to begin with prayer. “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2). Jesus needs each one of us to be His hands and His feet. He invites us to be His disciples, but He does not compel us to say “yes.” At the same time, there is a sense of urgency in His invitation. When the harvest is ripe, there is no time to waste. If grain is not brought in when it is mature – if fruit is left on the tree past its prime – it will rot. In the same way, those who do not yet know Christ depend on disciples to share the Word of God with them at the right moment – when their hearts and minds are open and ready to receive the Gospel message. For this reason, Jesus tells disciples to “greet no one on the road” (Lk 10:4). But does Jesus really mean that we should be so single-minded about our mission that we ignore people along the way? St. Ambrose writes:
“How can it be … that the Lord wishes to get rid of a custom so full of kindness? Notice, however, that he does not just say, ‘Do not salute anyone’, but adds, ‘on the road’. And there is a reason for this.
“He also commanded Elisha not to salute anyone he met, when he sent him to lay his staff on the body of the dead child (2 Kings 4:29): he gave him this order so as to get him to do this task without delay and effect the raising of the child, and not waste time by stopping to talk to any passer-by he met. Therefore, there is no question of omitting the good manners to greet others; it is a matter of removing a possible obstacle in the way of service.”1
The second thing that Jesus asks of disciples is that we totally detach ourselves from earthly things. We are to completely depend on God for all of our needs. “Carry no purse, no bags, no sandals” (Lk 10:4). When we are detached from earthly things, we are free of worry – worries that may distract us from sharing God’s Word with others. Jesus assures us that God will provide us with everything that we need if we make His kingdom and righteousness the priority in our lives.2 In truth, God has given us things that are much more valuable than any money or worldly possessions we might have acquired. He has given us the power to act in His name.3 Though Jesus gave the 70 disciples the power to work many miracles, He reminds us all that our reason for joy does not lie in any kind of miraculous power, but in the hope of reaching heaven.
Finally, Jesus asks us to bring His peace to others wherever we go. This peace goes beyond any kind of human comfort or consolation that we might offer. We are called to be a sign of Christ’s presence – to love, support, and care for one another – but authentic peace comes from God alone. He is the One who gives us hope for eternal life. He is the One who loves us unconditionally and shares the burdens of our earthly lives. His promise is certain. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
Sometimes we get the wrong idea about peace; we may even look for it in places that it cannot be found. Peace does not mean that we will have a quiet life, nor does it depend on external circumstances that have nothing to do with us. It is a gift of God that “passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7).4 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (Jn 14:27). It is the peace of God that will allow us to walk placidly in the midst of turmoil and trouble. It is the peace of God that banishes all fears. When we empty our hearts to make room for God to dwell within us, He transforms us and fills us with His joy and peace.
– Sharon van der Sloot
1 The Navarre Bible, Gospels & Acts, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Scepter Publishers, 2008; reprinted 2010), 419-420.
2 Cf. Mt 6:25-34.
3 Cf. Acts 3:3-6.
4 Fr. Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, vol. 4 (New York: Scepter, 2003), 74.