October 18, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Jesus calls us to be missionary disciples like St. Luke

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest (Lk 10:2).

The publication date for this column is Oct. 18, the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. Luke is traditionally considered to be the author of both the Gospel named for him and the Acts of the Apostles, which together make up more than one quarter of the New Testament.

The New Testament briefly mentions St. Luke a few times, and St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians refers to him as a physician (from the Greek word for “one who heals”); thus St. Luke is thought to have been both a physician and a disciple of St. Paul.

There is a relationship between evangelization, the proclamation of the Good News of our salvation, which might be called “spiritual healing,” and physical healing, which is the work of a physician. One cures diseases of the mind, heart and soul; the other ensures the health and vitality of the body. As an evangelist, St. Luke was both a physician of the soul and one who heals bodily ailments.

The Gospel reading for today’s feast is the familiar passage from St. Luke’s Gospel (cf. Lk 10:1-9) wherein Jesus sends out 72 disciples, commissioning them to proclaim the good news that God’s kingdom is at hand. There are several memorable phrases used in this particular Gospel passage. One is: “Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves” (Lk 10:3). Another is: “Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves payment” (Lk 10:7). Perhaps the saying that is most often quoted is: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Lk 10:2).

Missionary disciples of Jesus Christ are often vulnerable (like lambs among wolves) because the Gospel values we are challenged to live as well as preach are often contrary to the values we encounter in the communities we have been sent to evangelize. We are to be peaceful in an increasingly violent world. We are to speak of God in places where God-talk is prohibited. And we are to be welcoming and open our arms to those who have been marginalized by fear, prejudice, racism and intolerance.

As disciples sent by Jesus, we are to graciously accept the generosity of others, because the work we do on behalf of God’s kingdom is worthwhile. But we are not supposed to expect favors or succumb to inappropriate forms of compensation.

We should “stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered” (Lk 10:7) to us, without seeking anything above and beyond what is our due. Violation of this principle is what leads to an excessive desire on the part of Church leaders to be served rather than to serve others. This can result in attitudes of clericalism among members of the clergy and other forms of entitlement in religious and lay leaders.

Finally, St. Luke’s Gospel reminds us that there is much work to be done spreading the Good News, healing the sick and caring for the poor and vulnerable, but never quite enough laborers to meet the growing needs of God’s people.

This Scripture passage is rightly used to promote vocations to ordained ministry and the consecrated life, but its meaning extends to all baptized Christians. There is much work to do and more than enough opportunities for all of us to serve as missionary disciples.

Jesus gives us detailed instructions: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you” (Lk 10:4-6).

To be his ambassadors, we don’t need a lot of stuff. We also shouldn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms everywhere we go. We are to offer Christ’s peace to those we meet. If it is accepted, we should be glad. If not, we should move on without being argumentative or resentful.

In other words, we should imitate Christ himself. He taught and prayed. He cured illnesses of body and soul. He spoke the truth with love—even when his words were rejected. He loved everyone; he patiently endured the weaknesses of those closest to him; and he humbly and generously asked his Father to forgive his enemies.

On this feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, let’s ask our Lord for the grace to be faithful missionary disciples. Let’s proclaim the Gospel with our words and actions, and let’s commit ourselves to being effective healers of body and soul by our prayerful concern for all members of the one family of God. †

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