Not My Will, but Thine Be Done.
The Twenty-Third Tuesday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Colossians 2: 6-15.
• Psalm 145: 1-2, 8-11.
• Luke 6: 12-19.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, Confessor.*
Lessons from the common "Justus ut palma…" of a Confessor not a Bishop, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Corinthians 4: 9-14.
• Psalm 36: 30-31.
• Luke 12: 32-34.
5:12 PM 9/18/2019 — I would like you to recall, if you can, the episode from Saint Luke's Gospel wherein our Lord sends out seventy-two of his disciples on a mission to preach the kingdom of God. He gives them some rudimentary instructions as to how to conduct themselves, then launches them to all the cities and towns that He intends to visit to do reconnaissance for Him before He arrives. And you will, I'm sure, recall that this happens at a time early in our Lord's public ministry, before He has chosen from among these disciples the twelve that will become His apostles. Most of these seventy-two didn't have a clue about what Jesus was all about, as evidenced by their completely naïve display of exultation upon their return, not recognizing that the preaching is only a prologue to our Blessed Lord's real purpose on earth, which is to die and so redeem mankind; hence, the exodus of many of these early disciples in chapter six of John's Gospel, in which they begin to drift away as soon as our Lord begins to reference He true purpose.
Now, all of a sudden, Saint Luke, in today's lesson, mentions twelve, and the word “apostle” appears in the Gospel for the first time. He even mentions by name the twelve who have been chosen. Nothing is said about why or how they were chosen, but I tend to think that the previous mission of the seventy-two had something to do with it. Recall, if you will, what some of the seventy-two say to our Lord upon their return: “Lord, they said, even the devils are made subject to us through thy name” (Luke 10: 17 Knox). Our Lord, of course, is quick to point out that whatever it is they think they've done has been done by God, not by them, and I would not be a bit surprised that the twelve who are chosen at the opening of today's lesson are chosen precisely because they recognized this from the beginning.
Saint Luke’s account today doesn’t include it, but If you look at the first naming of the twelve in Matthew’s Gospel you’ll notice the subtle difference in the instructions He gives to the twelve in sending them out to preach as compared to those given to the seventy-two: both groups are given the same general purpose: to proclaim the kingdom of heaven; but, the twelve, unlike the seventy-two, are specifically told not to go into pagan or Samaritan territory. This further supports the idea that the mission of the seventy-two was a test. The test now being over, and the twelve having been chosen, the real work begins; and, the real work is for God's people to put their own house in order. The Gentiles will have their day after our Lord's ascension into heaven through the preaching of the Blessed Apostle Paul; but, for now, the mission is only to the Jews. This makes sense even from a purely pragmatic point of view, and translates analogously to the life of the Church: how can the Church preach a way of life that her own members fail to live? How can the Church evangelize the non-believer when her own children are in such need of evangelization? How can the Church preach the truth to a weary and confused world when so many of her own either don't know or openly reject the truth? How can someone who lacks interior conversion hope to convert someone else?
Pope Benedict mentioned this when he came up with the idea of what he called the “New Evangelization,” only it wasn't all that new; it was simply a new face being put on an old idea that the spiritual doctors of the Church have talked about for centuries: that the first people we need to convert is ourselves.
Finally, we should not miss the fact that Saint Luke, listing the names of our Lord's chosen apostles, with an almost comic subtlety appends to the name of Judas the fact that he would betray our Lord. He mentions it because our Lord knew it. He chooses Judas anyway because without this betrayal the real reason for our Lord's incarnation cannot be realized. We all have our role to play in God's plan. Most of the seventy-two would not become apostles, but they still had a function. Judas would go down in history as the one who would betray our Lord, and his name would be synonymous with treason forever, but he, too, had his role to play. So do we. It may not be the role we want. We may think of ourselves as leaders, but our Lord may think otherwise. We may think of ourselves as spiritual guides to others, but that's not for us to say. Part of our fallen nature is to view ourselves as more important than we actually are; that's referenced in the very temptations offered to Adam and Eve in Genesis. That’s why the warning given to us by the Blessed Apostle Paul in our first lesson is so important:
Go on, then, ordering your lives in Christ Jesus our Lord, according to the tradition you have received of him. You are to be rooted in him, built up on him, your faith established in the teaching you have received, overflowing with gratitude. Take care not to let anyone cheat you with his philosophizings, with empty phantasies drawn from human tradition, from worldly principles; they were never Christ’s teaching (Col. 2: 6-8 Knox).
All of us have some role to play in the conversion of the world to Christ, and discerning it is often a challenge; that challenge can be made easier if we keep in mind that the role Christ has in mind for us may have nothing to do with what we might envision or desire for ourselves.
* From his childhood, Nicholas was a model of virtue and innocence. Ordianed for the Augustinian Fathers, he became a famous preacher. He died in 1310.