Even though verses 13 through 16 are omitted from today’s hearing of the narrative, it remains to be a rather lengthy section, and full of all types of things that we can reflect upon for truths about why and how we ought to Cooperate with God. The verse that really sticks out to me today is v. 4, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” In particular, it’s the last directive from Jesus, “. . . and greet no one along the way.”
Perhaps, for a good number of today’s Christian this sounds like a shocking command from Jesus – “. . . and greet no one along the way.” But aren’t Christians always supposed to be nice and friendly and welcoming? Didn’t Saint Paul say, “Greet all brothers with a holy kiss” (1 Thess 5:26)? Well, what Paul was talking about in that letter was concerning how we ought to treat each during the liturgy, and we still practice that today at Mass when we exchange the sign of peace. On the contrary, what Jesus is calling His disciples to do here is practice sola-mission – mission only.
We read about how this call played out before in 2 Kings 4:9-37, when the Prophet Elisha was confronted by the Shunammite woman whose son had died. It was the custom of Elisha and his servant Gehazi to stay and dine with the Shunammite woman and her husband whenever were in the city of Shunem. Because Elisha was a holy man, the Shunammite woman pressed upon her husband to furnish a little room for the prophet “with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay here.” For doing such a nice thing for the man of God, Elisha prayed that God would bless her with a son. God granted this prayer within a year of it being prophesied, but after some time later her son died, which immediately caused the Shunammite woman to angrily go and seek out the prophet. She found Elisha at Mount Carmel and clearly let it be known that she felt deceived by him for granting her a son, only to cause her the misery of him dying too young. In response, Elisha commanded his Gehazi, “Gird your loins. Take my staff with you and be off; if you meet anyone do not greet them, and if anyone greet you, do not answer. Lay my staff upon the boy.”
In today’s society we are accustomed to perfunctory greetings. We’ll pass by a stranger or co-worker and say “Hello” and keep moving along, or we might even dare to ask, “How are you?” without any genuine interest in how that person is actually doing. This wasn’t the case in Elisha’s time, or even in Jesus’ time. In those days meeting and greeting one another consumed time. There was an authentic communion of persons that happened. There was an exchange of mutual interests. There may have even been breaking of bread if the host had offered, which he probably would have, and the guest was not to decline. After all that was finished, the guest would have been offered to stay over for the night, and, again, it would have been uncustomary – even rude – for him to decline the offer.
As I already stated, in today’s society we don’t bother much with time consuming greetings, communion of persons, and even warm hospitality towards unknown travelers, but there are many other things that can cause us distraction from the mission that we have been charged nonetheless. There are a number of other ways that people will impose their interests upon us that will sidetrack us from what God has called us to do. These may be routine calling, such as getting to Sunday Mass on time (i.e. before the Gospel reading has concluded). It may be in regards to our vocation. I’ve heard numerous stories of men who have become priests much later in life, who all attest that they always felt called to the priesthood, but had done this or that rather than rightly respond to their call. Then there are those times when God calls upon us to do something immediate and specific, such as telling someone the truth, praying with them, or giving them a word of encouragement.
Whatever those things are that God has called us to do, there are three types of distractions, that come in the form of temptations, that we need to be aware of. There are the distractions of self-interest – the distractions of the flesh; that is, obeying the will of self-indulgence, rather than the will of God. There are the distractions of the world; and the world has many distractions – including about 8 billion people that might try to impose their self-interest upon us. Lastly, there are the distractions from Satan. In my radio conversation with Ann Ammar about her conversion from Agnosticism to Catholicism she recounted such a distraction that she had discerned was from the Evil One himself.
The call of today’s Gospel is to stay focused on your mission. Whatever God has called you to do – do that, and be very attentive to how He wants it done, when He wants it done, and where He wants it done. That is the spiritual formula for success in the Kingdom of God.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”
“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.