Through my years working with parish and retreat groups around the country, I’ve discovered that many people see a contrast or division between their private faith and their public acts of charity and service. I’ve often wondered why that is. After all, aren’t we, as Christians, inspired to do good works because of our faith in Jesus Christ?
It seems that the rub for many people is a fear (or at least a hesitation) to talk about prayer and spirituality. It’s much easier for us to talk about the things we do in life than it is to talk about who we are. And our spirituality is really something that exists in our heart of hearts, at the core of our being. Whether it is because they fear saying the wrong thing — or admitting they don’t pray as well or as long as they imagine they should — or simply because they’ve never had an opportunity, most people quickly revert to talking about their professional lives, their parish ministry, or the volunteer work that they do. This leads to an unfortunate compartmentalization of spirituality.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples in pairs to “every town and place he intended to visit.” These disciples were to let the local communities know that Jesus and the Apostles were on their way. They were being asked to evangelize — to announce the “Good News” that Jesus was coming. (Remember that our word “evangelize” comes from the Greek word evangelion, which originally meant a joyful announcement — good news — that a king was coming to visit or that a military battle had been won.) And the message — the evangelion — that Jesus had instructed the disciples to proclaim was simple: “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Here. Now.
The disciples’ journey and their announcement of the coming of the kingdom — and of the King himself — was the action. But what was bubbling beneath the surface, within the hearts and souls of those early evangelizers? It was their faith in and relationship with Jesus and with one another.
When Jesus sent out those pairs of disciples as “laborers for his harvest,” he wanted them to work together, to share their faith, to support and encourage one another when the journey was difficult, and to be witness to the fact that to be a disciple of Jesus calls for collaboration and community. This is why Pope St. John Paul II reflected, “Within the People of God, there is a specific mission awaiting each one. Because the needs of the ‘harvest’ are so great, all the members of God’s People must grow in the awareness of ‘being called.’ ”
This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that living our faith with integrity means that we share our interior faith through our words and actions. The two go hand in hand. But Jesus also teaches an important lesson in relationships by urging the disciples to pay attention to the response of the people they were visiting. Yes, they were to share their message about the coming of the kingdom, but he also wanted them to watch and listen — to be in relationship with the people they visited, to be sensitive to how the Good News was being received, and to act accordingly.
In the end, the mission of the disciples was to proclaim the faith they held within their hearts and to invite others — all others — to join them in building up God’s kingdom as faithful disciples. Faith and action came together in relationships — the communion and community of the kingdom of God.
Br. Silas Henderson, SDS
Lord Jesus Christ,
may my soul always revolve around you,
and find you.
Help it to turn to you,
and reach you.
Let its every thought and word be centered on you.
Grant that my soul may sing your praise
and the glory of your holy name
with humility and reserve,
with love and joy,
with ease and gentleness,
with patience and tranquility,
with success and persistence
to the very end.