Unencumbered by baggage – Thursday, 3rd week in ordinary time – Lk 10:1-9
This is Luke’s longest meditation on mission and follows immediately after Jesus has laid down the cost of discipleship. In yesterday’s reading, three candidates, two of whom wished to follow Jesus and one whom Jesus hoped he would follow Him, were all turned down. Why? Because the condition of discipleship demanded a sense of urgency; work in the Kingdom of God had to be done immediately (and not after retirement as so many bargain with the Lord).
Interestingly the Lord now appointed seventy (other ancient manuscripts read seventy two) and sent them on ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He himself intended to go. After the rejection of the three would be candidates in 9:57-62 Jesus now seems to have finalised the list of candidates who wished to follow Him and He has handpicked seventy of them.
It thus becomes clear that not all those who desire to serve the Lord are chosen by Him. For the Lord, it seems, certain criteria need to be fulfilled before one is and chosen and ‘sent out’ (made apostle) into the harvest. It would make poor sense to only ‘appoint’ people who are filled with desire but with no dedication to the task.
The Gospel also tells us that Jesus sent them out in pairs ‘ahead of Him to every town and place where he intended to go’. Cleary Jesus had a plan in His mind. The promotion of the Kingdom of God cannot be some haphazard job. The Lord clearly had a winning strategy in mind for the seventy were to cure the sick and proclaim that the kingdom of God had come near to them. After the people were sufficiently mesmerised by the ‘trailer’ He would come in as the ‘main show’.
I have often seen both members of clergy and the laity treat the work of the kingdom in a very lackadaisical way. Anything seems to do, everything seems fine. Such working only meets with disastrous results and damages the mission of the kingdom that Jesus intended to spread with our help. Most importantly the one theme that runs through this passage is the urgency of the mission of the kingdom. It is for this reason that those sent out are ‘unencumbered’ by baggage. The Lord de-equips them of all travel paraphernalia; no purse, no bag, no sandals; even more, don’t greet any one on the way lest you ‘waste time’ in pleasantries and fail to proclaim the kingdom.
At the end of every Eucharist, the priest says, “The Mass is ended, go proclaim the good news”. It is my opinion that these powerful words have had little impact on most believers. For one, the very word mass (Missa) comes from the Roman era when soldiers who were instructed at morning drill were ‘dismissed’ with the words, ‘Ite, missa est’( translated in English as,’ go the Mass is ended). This command was not merely to be a dismissal but a dismissal to carry out the instructions given to the soldiers. The word Missa or Mass should be correctly translated not as a ‘spiritual activity’ as it has come to be understood, but a ‘spiritual command’ as it was meant to be.
At each ‘Missa’ we are dismissed (in the liturgy of the Church it is called the ‘dismissal’) to go out with a mandate, namely to proclaim the Good News. How poor we are when we think that our spiritual life is merely in ‘attending the Mass’ and not following its final dismissal. Faith is to be proclaimed and not brownie points to be accumulated for heaven.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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