Saturday, October 6, 2018


The seventy disciples
During this past week a few images have been forming an interesting and challenging collage in my head. I'll put some of them together randomly in this post.


Jesus sends his seventy(-two) disciples out to preach, heal, and cast out demons. But he tells them not to carry any supplies with them: The messengers of the Kingdom are to be totally dependent on God for everything. 


Then, as he begins his long journey to Jerusalem (Lk Chapters 9-18) various people come to him asking to follow him on the journey. One wants to go bury his father first, another wants to go say good-bye to his family, and so on. Jesus' reply is always the same urgent insistence on following immediately. One commentary says that these interactions "show the severity and unconditional nature of Christian discipleship."  I asked myself if my following of Jesus is unconditional. If I were to got to Jesus and offer my lukewarm, watered-down version of following, what would he reply?


The disciples return from their first mission delighted. Listen to the beginning of today's gospel reading:  The seventy-two disciples returned rejoicing and said to Jesus,"Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name."Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power 'to tread upon serpents' and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven." (Lk 10:17 ff.) 
One commentator notes "The effect of the mission of the seventy-two is characterized by the Lucan Jesus as a symbolic fall of Satan. As the kingdom of God is gradually being established, evil in all its forms is being defeated; the dominion of Satan over humanity is at an end." I noticed the key words "gradually" and "is being defeated" (present progressive tense). The victory is already won, but not yet. We have been recruited by our baptism to fight for the establishing of the kingdom. But how committed am I to fighting the battle?


This week we celebrated the feasts of two real warriors for the kingdom. On Monday we remembered that little twenty-four year-old cloistered nun who was a warrior from head to toe: St. Therese of Lisieux. Her name "the Little Flower" can be misleading. A look at her biography shows that Satan had his hands full with that determined woman.  Then on Thursday we celebrated St. Francis of Assisi, a warrior for the kingdom if ever there was one. Both he and Therese gave us living examples of  "the severity and unconditional nature of Christian discipleship." I had to remind myself that, rather than blushing for shame at their example, I should try to imitate them in becoming a relentless warrior for the kingdom. 

This collage is unsettling -- it makes me squirm. All this talk about the "severity and unconditional nature of the Christian discipleship," about being engaged in a relentless fight against the powers of evil, about being a fearless warrior like Therese or Francis.

Yet that's a major reason why we venerate the saints, isn't it? To ask their help in imitating their fierce determination to follow Christ at all costs. 

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