Missionaries of the Kingdom
(Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20)
Introduction to Mass
In today’s gospel reading Jesus gives some straightforward advice to his collaborators in the Mission. He points out that when we are serious about finding God and leading our lives according to God’s values and standards, we’ll often find ourselves at odds with the self-serving and worldly standards of the majority. When that happens we need to have the courage to persevere in the face of criticism or ridicule, always looking for ways of persuading them of the “better way” of the gospel.
As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love…
The harvest is rich, Jesus says. In other words there are a lot of people for whom the announcement of the gospel message is very timely.
But on the other hand the message is always going to get a mixed reception. I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves, Christ tells his disciples. The environment is hostile in many places: some towns will welcome you, others will reject you. And when they do, wipe the dust from your feet as you leave.
Time is short and the message must be announced to as many people as possible. There isn’t time to waste with those who don’t want to hear it.
The same sense of urgency lies behind Jesus’ other advice, about his followers not taking too many possessions with them, not stopping to talk to people along the way, not making any fuss about where to stay or what they get to eat.
All these material appetites have to be subordinated to the cause of the Kingdom. And after all, this was Jesus’ own way of living during the years of his public mission.
Jesus' manner of living is one thing, perhaps. What should we take from these instructions and apply to ourselves, in our circumstances today?
Our environment is in many ways indifferent to spiritual values, people’s aspirations in life are often self-serving and worldly. Many people have no serious interest in spiritual matters and are often hostile to Christian beliefs and values in particular.
If the basic Christian attitude to life involves love of neighbour, service towards others and an effort to control our self-seeking motivations, then in our environment we will often be setting ourselves up to be taken advantage of.
We’re likely to find ourselves as lambs among wolves just because of the effort we make to put our faith into practice. We shouldn’t forget Christ’s warnings that when we put our lives under God’s rule, we’re not likely to win everyone’s admiration: we’re more likely to meet a fair amount of derision and hostility. We should anticipate that and not be surprised when it happens.
The other aspect of Jesus’ teaching here that we can apply to ourselves is his advice about “travelling light”.
Christ had a lot to say about how belonging to God’s Reign meant surrendering the attachments we have to money and property and not worrying about our physical appearance, our clothes and so on. As long as these things loom large on the horizon they’ll act as great obstacles to the spiritual life and great obstacles to the work God tries to carry out with us and the way he tries to change us.
It wasn’t that Christ liked the idea of forcing people into a grim and austere way of life or that he wanted them to be destitute. His teaching had more to do with the way that these sorts of preoccupation keep people wrapped up in themselves and their own wants in a way that makes them deaf to the needs of others and deaf to God.
So one of the small steps we can take to deepen our own relationship with God, and to put the values of his Kingdom into practice, is to resist the pressures to be wrapped up in ourselves – all the inducements there are in our type of culture to be selfish with a good conscience and to spend most of our time attending to what we want for ourselves and persuading ourselves that we don’t have time for anyone else’s concerns.
Every small step we take in that direction strengthens the roots of God’ Kingdom in us and strengthens the presence of God in us. Gradually we become a whole “new creation” as St. Paul says in the second reading – someone whose whole way of thinking and feeling and treating people is God’s way of thinking and feeling and treating people.
So those are the lessons I would take, or the reflections I would make, on the readings for Mass this Sunday.
Being a disciple of Christ now, just as much as in the days of his ministry, means being sent out into an environment that doesn’t accept the values of God’s Kingdom, and part of Christian life then means having an element of courage and perseverance to go against the grain of majority opinion.
And the other point is that we should take seriously Jesus’ advice not to be absorbed in money and the pursuit of material rewards, in a way that many people today would simply take for granted as a principal goal in life, because those things nearly always work against our true vocation and deaden our sensitivity to the way God works in our lives and draws us closer to him.