Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
I’d like to draw your attention to a detail, easily overlooked, in today’s Gospel: specifically the reactions of the Seventy-two returning from their mission. It’s not just that they can’t wait to reconnect with Jesus; it’s what they’ve learned while they were away. Can you identify what’s going on? They’ve been discovering who they are by doing what Jesus asked them to do.
In the normal course of events, we learn a lot about ourselves from the reactions of other people. We even learn things we’d usually miss or would want to ignore. Throw religion into the mix and the religious roles we play, however, and everything can become murky and no longer be what it seems.
Let me put it this way: how many of us came here to the Abbey looking for a Paradise? How many of you might still need to find “holy monks,” so virtuous, that there could be no problems living in a place like this?
Of course, if you keep coming back here you’ll begin to notice that our life is nothing like that. Certainly, holiness is nothing like that; and no life worth living is like that. We only mature or become holy by wrestling with life’s challenges, by campaigning on after defeat. It remains true–and I’m glad it’s true–that our life here can provide hope and support to people outside the monastery. But God forbid that I ever begin to believe that I am the role I play for other people! God forbid I climb on the pedestal that some people would erect for monks or nuns or priests–or pious people in general.
A pedestal is not a good place for a human being to live. There’s not enough room to act creatively or do anything at all!There’s certainly no room for admitting mistakes on a pedestal. The best option is to stand still and keep up appearances. But that’s not living or growing, is it? It might reassure some people and invite compliments; it will never reveal who I really am.
The seventy-two disciples do not repeat one word of what anyone said about them–that they were so edifying or generous or inspiring–not a word! With utter simplicity they tell the Lord what they did in his name.
I wonder, in their travels, did they also journey through that dark tunnel of self-doubts, confronted by their own insecurities? Did they depend on one another to remain focused on the Lord’s instructions? Did they resort to trustworthy companions to understand better their experience? And only then, did they emerge back into the light of day and perform works they had never dared to imagine?
There are plenty of strategies and programs to spread God’s Word, but do I take responsibility for who I am? Do I first own my actual experiences and deeds and their consequences? Is the point to accomplish a task or to become somebody in the Kingdom of God? If I am no more than what people want me to be, if I depend on the halo or the horns they’d crown me with, will I ever perform the wonders that the Lord asks of me? Am I shackled by the opinions of the people about me? Or can I simply discover who God created me to be as I wrestle with life and God’s will?