This year the Diocesan Priests Retreat, held at Mariannhill from 5-10 October, was given by Fr. Bob Jones SVD and was called an Earthen Vessel retreat.
On first reading all today’s Scriptures seem a little obtuse, vague and even contradictory. They can be difficult to understand. Why on earth would Jesus instruct the
“seventy others …. to salute no one on the road?” [TODAY’S GOSPEL – LUKE 10: 1 – 12. 17 – 20] Is this not somewhat unfriendly and counterproductive in the field of human communication and interpersonal relationships?
In addition there is another instruction which our contemporary world must think is a little fanciful and somewhat unrealistic.
“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” In this age this would probably translate into no laptop, no cellular telephone and no Tablet? Certainly there would be no Wi-Fi available! Those seventy others did not even have a change of clothes so there was no need for a trendy, upmarket, holdall – and certainly no possibility of staying at any fancy boutique hotel or stopping for a luncheon en route in a country inn recommended by the Michelin guide.
However, if we take the time to read this Gospel text carefully, we should be able to discern what Jesus
(who had appointed and sent them) wanted them to learn – they are to rely solely on the message they had to preach and the fact that Jesus himself intended to visit “every town and place he himself was about to come.”In addition, and of particular importance, are the last few verses. There Jesus responds to the seventy others who, on return express delight on what they saw as their personal success – “Lord, even the demands are subject to us in your name.” To this Jesus tells them: “do not rejoice in this …. but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, their rejoicing should be founded on the fact that they were doing the work of the kingdom. They were mere labourers and it was not a matter of the demons being subject to them but that they were subject to the name.
The message should now be clear enough. The People of God, the Church, all of us, have beenappointed by the Lord to carry our share of the burden of ministry to the world in which we live and we have to learn the basic lesson that we do not rely on ourselves but on him. It is the Lord who gives success to our work. We do not rely on material possessions and certainly we should not be carrying any sort of personal baggage into the work of the kingdom. We are
APPOINTED. We are not the initiators. At the same time we must learn to accept the realities of the actual communities we serve: “remain in the same house eating and drinking what they set before you … heal the sick … and say ‘ the kingdom of God has come near to you’.”
We do, indeed, profitably use the means of modern communication in our ministries but they
themselves are never the principal tools of success. I am typing these words on a computer (an ancient one but it still works) but the machine itself adds absolutely nothing to the growth of the kingdom. We should never rely on them (become disabled disciples in the wheelchairs of technology) in order to do our work. How, I ask in God’s name, did the Gospel spread all over the world before the computer was invented? It may make it easier but it does not, never does, make it more effective. WE HAVE TO RELY ON THE LORD ALONE ….. I often wonder how much time is wasted fiddling (under the disguise of work) with computers and Web Sites?
The ancient Benedictine motto of work and pray remains relevant. The Lord alone …. is this an exaggeration? Today Saint Paul proclaims
“far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [see NEW TESTAMENT READING: GALATIANS 6: 14 – 18]. Then the prophet tells us “Behold I will extend prosperity to her … I will comfort you … your bones shall flourish … and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants.” [see OLD TESTAMENT READING: ISAIAH 66: 10 – 14c].
We must never forget that the Lord appointed and sent them on ahead of him. “The One who started the good work in you will bring it to completion.”
[see Philippians 1:6]