The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit (Lk 10:1).
Jesus sent out disciples ahead of him. He sends us out as well. Just as Mary conceived Jesus through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, she went in haste to assist Elizabeth who also was to give birth. What happened when Mary came upon Elizabeth? No sooner had Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth John leapt in her womb with gladness. This is the model of evangelization, sharing the joy of Christ that we experience in coming together. Let us resist defining people as other and building walls, but instead build bridges of encounter.
Yes, we are a people of the book like our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, but we are primarily a faith tradition grounded in the encounter of a person, Jesus the Christ. Our pastor, Fr. Don, has shared with us a simple image to represent the path of discipleship and that is the image of the cross. The vertical part of the cross represents how we develop our personal relationship with Jesus, through our regular practice and discipline of prayer, meditation, contemplation, and study. The horizontal represents our encountering Jesus in each other through fellowship, small group study, and worship. If we only have the vertical, the one on one relationship with Jesus, we just have a stick. If we just serve others without encountering Jesus, we just have a stick. Put them together and we have the cross which is embodied by our love for God and love of neighbor.
Christianity is the way of the cross, not the way of the stick. We are to be contemplatives in action. We experience the joy of encountering Jesus, personally, and in our interactions with one another. We do not need to set off to some far away land, but open our minds and hearts to allow God to happen in our everyday experiences. We are to love others as Jesus loves us, we are to share the inexpressible joy of that love, and that love we share is to be unconditional. We are to participate in “ the surrender of life for the sake of others” (Lohfink 2014, 73).
Jesus sent seventy-two off to build Christian communities, one smile at a time, one person at a time, one encounter at a time, one relationship at a time. I agree with Gerhard Lohfink in his piece, “What Does the Love Commandment Mean?” Love is not a pious universal that we love all humanity in some vague removed or remote way. The love that Jesus expressed and imparts us with today is something tangible, corporal, it’s hands on: “This love constantly breaks out of the individual communities to embrace non-Christians, guests, strangers, the suffering (obviously including those in other countries) but it is always tied to the concrete experience of common life in the individual community” (Lohfink 2014, 72).
May we experience Jesus this morning in our personal time of prayer, and may we also be open to experience him in others, especially those we may have kept at arm’s length. With each encounter let us reach out beyond our self to engage others with hospitality, respect, and joy. Each pair of eyes that you to happen to look upon, offer a smile and say hello. Just that simple, genuine expression acknowledges to the other that they matter, have worth, and dignity. If someone asks you how you are, instead of saying, “Fine.” Say instead, “Better since you asked. Thank you for caring.” There are many ways to reach out and give of ourselves to others in love, we just need to be willing to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.
Photo: from parroquiamadridejos at cathopic.com
Lohfink, Gerhard. “What Does the Love Commandment Mean?” In No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today, translated by Linda M. Maloney, 64-74. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.