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 leaped in her womb with gladness. This is the model of evangelization, sharing the joy of Christ that we experience in coming together. Jesus does not tell us to define and judge people but instead to encounter and build relationships with them.
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 from St Peter Catholic Church, 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, worship, and service. 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 by experiencing the joy of encountering Jesus, personally, and in our interactions with one another. We do not need to go to some faraway land. All we need to do is open our minds and hearts to allow God to happen in our everyday experiences amd with those around us. We are to love others as Jesus loves us and unconditionally share the inexpressible joy of that love.
Jesus sent seventy-two off to encounter one person at a time and build one relationship at a time. I agree with Gerhard Lohfink in his piece, “What Does the Love Commandment Mean?”, that love is not a pious universal that we love all humanity in some vague removed or remote way. The love that Jesus expressed in the Gospels and imparts upon us today is something tangible, corporal. It is 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).
Jesus, please move us to be more open to experience you in others. Lead us to experience, “the surrender of life for the sake of others” (Lohfink 2014, 73), especially for those to whom we may have kept at arm’s length. Help us with each encounter to be more hospitable, respectful, and joyful. When we catch the eyes of another, shine your love through our smile. So in that simple, genuine expression, someone may feel today that they matter, that they have worth, dignity, and value. 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 bear the cross and surrender ourselves to others through kind and loving acts. We just need to be willing to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and let God happen in our encounters!
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.