This coming Sunday is the 14th Sunday in Lectionary Cycle C. Our gospel reading follows immediately on the heels of Jesus moving from Galilee with the intention of reaching Jerusalem (Luke 9:53). He is rejected in the towns of Samaria (vv.51-56) and he challenges the would-be disciples to follow (vv. 57-62). Occurring so quickly after the Transfiguration and prediction of his own passion, death, and resurrection, these scenes, taken together, all point to the coming dangers for aspiring disciples. Each scene brings the disciples’ understandings and expectations into contrast with Jesus’ own mission for the disciples. Discipleship is radical, calling for the unconditional commitment to the redemptive working of God, and to understand that God’s Kingdom has the highest priority and largest claim on one’s life. It is at this point that the 72 disciples are commissioned.
I have often wondered if this passage also presents a deeper difficulty in the sense that some people have the idea that “mission” is part of the realm of the “professionals” in the church. The Franciscans were the first religious order to have a specifically missionary charism in our rule of life. And that is good, but does it allow admirers of St. Francis to stay on the side line and let “the professionals” take care of the mission? I would offer that this passage calls on all disciples to be part of the mission.
Allen Culpepper holds that this passage contains 10 principles of mission by which every generation should be guided:
- affirms the world’s need for mission
- points to the importance of prayer in and in support of mission
- insists on the active participation of every disciple
- warns of the realistic dangers, barriers and uncertainty of mission
- singularity of purpose
- the goal of mission: peace upon this household
- the host sets the context for the missioner’s witness
- recognition that mission and witness will not always succeed
- nevertheless, perseverance is the hallmark of mission
- despite the evidence or no, be assured about the ultimate fulfillment of God’s redemptive mission. This ultimate fulfillment, even if we are unsuccessful – this is why we rejoice.
On a more lighthearted note, among Franciscans we might wonder why St. Francis chose Luke 10:4 (and parallels) as the “marching orders” for our life. In that passage we are to take nothing for the journey. It would be a little more interesting if we also took on Luke 22:36. Then we would have a bag, a purse, and swords!