Who knows? Jesus may be right in front of you.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ
Peace be with you. Have you ever been talking to someone who very obviously had someone else far more important to whom they were waiting to talk. Sometimes while talking to someone, their cell phone rings and they take it out of their pocket, answer it, say, “just one minute” and walk away. Or, sometimes I visit homebound folks and they have the TV or the radio on and seem to be farm more interested in that than in talking to me. In a previous assignment, I had a pastor who was very good at raising money. He was very attuned to whether someone was paying attention to him. He would vent frustrations to me on car rides about someone who answered their cell phone in the middle of a conversation or someone who told him after five minutes of conversation that they had to leave. Yet, in a large group of people, he was notorious for talking to you while constantly looking around you. You had the feeling that he was looking for someone else more interesting or more important to talk to. One time, when I asked him about why he did that, he said to me, “Well, I can talk to you any time. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t someone out there that was only going to be around for a short time.
Today’s gospel is often referred to as the sending of the disciples. There’s a difference between a disciple and an apostle. The apostles were 12 men called by Jesus to play a key leadership role among the crowds. A disciple, on the other hand, was anyone who believed in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are, in some ways, the descendants to the disciples. In today’s gospel, Jesus sends out 72 disciples to begin evangelizing. So that means that Jesus intended evangelization to not be restricted to those in holy orders. All of us are responsible to spread the good news of Jesus. So, we need to pay close attention to the advice Jesus gives us on how we are to evangelize.
Jesus begins by sounding a lot like Pope Francis with all his humility. He says, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;” Jesus doesn’t want concerns for material possessions to get in the way of evangelization. Yet, the next thing that he said was, “greet no one along the way.” At first, I was kind of perplexed about that part. Some scriptural writers suggested that Jesus might have been trying to protect his flock against thieves who would have been on the byroads. I don’t buy that explanation because I think Jesus would have said, “Don’t get robbed.” Instead, he says that they shouldn’t greet people along the way. Instead, I think Jesus wanted them to have a focus that wasn’t based upon evangelizing everyone along the way, just the ones that he sends us to.
When we start evangelizing, Jesus tells us to eat whatever is put before us. I think I’ve preached before that I find these kinds of commandments difficult because I tend to be kind of a picky eater. So, I think part of what Jesus is saying is that Fr. Miller needs to be grateful with whatever is set before him. However, there’s something profound that I also hear being proclaimed here. When I used to teach Faith Formation, I was often amazed at how much I learned because I was researching a question the students would ask. I often felt that I learned more than they did. Similarly, when we evangelize other people, when we share with people how Jesus has loved us and given us hope, we may find that we are evangelized.
So, think of one person who you know has been poorly evangelized or hasn’t been evangelized at all. How can you reach out to that person to let them know of the love and hope you have been given by Our Lord. Because, who knows, you may just see Jesus in them also.