I’ve gone to Luke’s Gospel for this week’s reflection and to explore the significant contribution made to our Christian faith by Luke, evangelist and martyr whose Festival in the church calendar is the 18th October. The reading is from Luke 10:1-9. Luke was thought to have been one of Paul’s companions in ministry and when he was in prison and to have been either a converted Greek gentile, or a Hellenistic Jew. We do know Luke’s knowledge and understanding of the Jewish scriptures was extensive and his writing of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles appear to have been written with the Gentiles in mind.
Luke was also thought to be a physician and some commentators used to imagine Luke as having been among the 70 sent out by Jesus in the story from the Gospel of Luke 10:1-9. Luke is remembered as a healer and writer, teacher and evangelist. He is thought to have died around 84 CE, some sources suggesting he was hanged.
In this particular story from Jesus’ ministry, Luke writes:
Jesus appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:1–2).
It is a timely reminder for us to accept and understand that ‘doing’ ministry, as labourers in God’s harvest, is not the sole responsibility of Jesus or the 12 disciples. Rather, it is the work of everyone who calls themselves a Christ follower whether they were among the 70 or as his disciples today. This invitation and expectation from Jesus challenges every Sunday Christian, who thinks it is the work of the clergy or someone else in the church to sort out and do, to rethink their priorities.
This push back could not be further from the truth. Every baptised Christian’s vocation is to grow into being a partner with Jesus. We understand we have been reborn through baptism to live, work and die as one of Jesus’ companions and this is our true God-given purpose in the world. We understand through baptism, every human being becomes another Christ.
Through baptism a person is formed in the likeness of Christ, is united with Christ’s death and resurrection, and becomes a new creation. And as Christ made us into his body, all of us should continue to act as Christ, ensuring his mission of salvation to the world is sustained.
On this occasion, Jesus sent out 70 people in pairs to go ahead of him, empowering them to bring peace, cure the sick and proclaim and teach about God. Jesus teaches all of us this is a communal and relational activity, which we do together for everyone, without exception. The message is inclusive and expansive. In Luke, the good news of God’s kingdom crosses boundaries of race and religion and is intended to be for all people in all circumstances, not simply the ones we like or choose.
It is a scandalously broad and radically open invitation as the kingdom encompasses all God’s creation. It is not for us to judge who is in or out, who to exclude or include. We have been wrong and unkind too many times to have any certainty our judgement about God’s kingdom is right; and as we believe God to be our judge we know we will need all the mercy and compassion God offers.
As we step onto the road laid out before us by Christ and follow his directions like the 70, without any resources other than who we are as faithful followers and with Jesus’ words sounding in our ears, we offer peace, healing and a welcome into God’s kingdom wherever people are and whatever they are doing. If they truly share in the peace they are in God’s kingdom.
Every Christian, including you and I, has God’s invitation to develop and use our gifts of the Spirit for the building up of God’s church, in our community and the world. Each one of us is invited to respond to Christ’s call to share God’s peace generously and without limits, because it is the Lord who is again sending us ahead of him to every town and place where he himself intends to go.
Our most direct involvement as we start out on the road laid out by Christ is in our families, economically in our work and volunteering, politically, professionally and socially, as we live in community here in the parish and in the worldwide church. We are called as prophets and evangelists to promote the human, social and ecological mission of the church in solidarity with the whole human family, collaborating and working with other people of good will for the wellbeing of humanity.
An important part of our prophetic witness is to denounce the evils of injustice and to promote Gospel justice, especially for the least and the last in our world. Jesus quoted Isaiah himself at the commencement of his own ministry, reminding us of this obligation:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:18-19)
Like Luke and like Jesus, our witnessing emerges as we are present in all aspects of our society, with our families and community, throughout our lives, witnessing to Christ, sharing in the living conditions, circumstances and labours of those around us, and in the sufferings and hopes of all our sisters and brothers, both friends and strangers alike.
Each one of us like Luke and Jesus, is asked to be a healer. As healers we are at work in our professional, community and parish lives, and healing in our families with prayer and caring. We stand in in solidarity with the world’s sadness and brokenness, witnessing to the world what is broken and needing Christ’s love to change and be renewed.
In our world today, grief and lamentation are rising physically and emotionally in our bodies, minds and spirits as a consequence of the pandemic impacting on our way of life, work and relationships and it is profoundly disturbing.
Our labour as harvesters in God’s kingdom has taken on a fresh urgency, as the world around us is rapidly changing and the Gospel must continue to be shared with love, kindness and compassion with all who are despairing.
As we listen to those stories of grief and brokenness from other human beings, I believe we are able to share and absorb one another’s grief and start to tell a new story made possible by Christ, created through this sharing, this listening, this praying and this caring. In death, grief and loss, in lamentation and sorrow, people are able to breathe peace into the darkest situations where we can connect with each other with love and with the gift of God’s spirit. Our fractured lives are given a sense of fresh wholeness built anew in God’s kingdom; we heal with God’s grace and love.
Jesus empowered the 70 to go out, speak of God’s love, bring healing, and expand the reign of God in significant ways. The messengers have changed over the centuries, but the message is the same. All of us as Jesus’ followers and as witnesses in God’s world, are called to give voice to, and embody, the kingdom of God. Jesus is the kingdom of God in person.
Jesus is always inviting people to be the means of grace in a world not yet free of brokenness and still held hostage by the grip of evil. Mercifully, Jesus Christ continues to equip his disciples, including you and I with the grace and power to accomplish whatever is needed, for the sake of the kingdom.
May you too be filled with God’s grace and love, knowing God loves you, so you may continue to heal, care and share God’s peace with others in the kingdom. May you cause a scandal with your radical behaviour as followers and healers for God.
The Lord be with you.