12th Sunday in Ordinary Time: "Walking In Heavenly Authority"
Isaiah 66: 10-16
Psalm 66: 1-9
Galatians 6: 12-18
Luke 10: 1-3; 17-20
In the gospel, Jesus sent His disciples, seventy of them, and from His instructions, we can glean some Kingdom principles. He sent them out as lambs in the midst of wolves. We are a lamb, not a wolf. We are sent out in the midst of wolves, but we stay a lamb. Wolves are violent; lambs are meek. Wolves are war-freak; lambs are peace-loving and peacemakers. Wolves curse; lambs bless.
Two Sundays ago, our gospel told of a demon-possessed man in the land of Gerasenes. Jesus didn’t deal with him like a demoniac, but like a lamb. We were encouraged last week to walk in Christ’s footsteps, and we are lambs following the Lamb of God. He did not deal with his torturers and executioners with violence, but as a lamb. In fact, when Jesus was on the cross, He asked His Father to forgive the violent and hateful people.
We have been given a spirit of power, of love and self-control. This means that we can control ourselves and resist the temptation to retaliate. It is tempting to retaliate, but there is power in being a meek lamb. In the Book of Revelation, the Lamb of God conquered. We overcome temptation by being followers of the Lamb. Martin Luther King said, “You cannot drive out darkness with darkness; only light can do that. You cannot drive out hate with hate; only love can do that.” He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. You cannot expect to be violent and not suffer the consequences.
Proverbs says, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” Let us act according to our nature, not against it. We are Christians; we are followers of the Prince of Peace; and we are lambs in the midst of wolves. If we act differently, we will look abnormal. We cannot just do our own thing and not suffer the consequences.
There was this story of a teenager who was walking with a priest on the way to a ball game. On the way, the young man was telling the priest, “You know, Father, I don’t like being told what to do like ‘Thou shall… and thou shall not…’” I don’t like being given directions, too.” The priest was listening quietly until they reached an intersection where there were directions pointing towards the ballpark. The priest passed by the signs and walked straight. The teenager shouted at him and said, “Father, Father, you missed the signpost. You did see the sign.” The priest answered, “Oh, I did see the signpost, but I thought this road looks better. I don’t like being told where to go.” The teenager got to understand the point of the priest. Directions are there for our good so that we can reach our destination. We cannot just do our own thing and find ourselves in our destination for we might find ourselves ending up in a worst place. Do not turn aside from our calling and go our own way like Judas did.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the lord of the harvest so that he may send more workers into his harvest.” I ask you this: were there workers at creation when God created all – the visible universe? God did not need manpower at that time. The earth is one small dot in the whole universe that He created. Does God need man’s help in a harvest? In an agricultural harvest? No, God does not need our help. God is not short of manpower. Why did Jesus ask His disciples to tell the Father to send more laborers into His harvest? My understanding is that He wants to share the joy of the harvest.
Jesus said, “These commandments I give you…” not so that our Father in heaven would have less headaches but so that “His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” This is the will and the desire of God. His joy will only be in us and it will only be complete when we participate in the work of the Kingdom. We participate when we act according to the divine nature and we display and demonstrate His image and His likeness.
Jesus also said, “Carry no money belt, no bag nor shoes. Greet no one on the way.” This implies the urgency and the importance of the kingdom of God above all of these things that we worry about. We are followers of the Prince of Peace and for any human being that we encounter, we bring God’s peace to them. Bring the kingdom of God to them. “If a man of peace is there, then, our peace will rest on him. If not, it will return to us. Then, stay in that house.” Don’t go from one house to another. Don’t skip from one relationship to relationship. Don’t jump from one Church to another. Stay and establish commitments. Build relationships. Fulfill our mission.
Jesus said, “Eat what is set before you.” As Filipinos, we don’t reject what is set before us as courtesy and politeness. Jesus was talking way more than being polite when He said this to His disciples. His disciples were Jews and they had strict dietary laws as written in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The rules and laws were part of the Jew’s piety and moral codes, but these set the people apart as the holy people of God. The laws were against their religious conscience.
When Jesus said, “Eat what is set before you,” He means that when it comes to the mission of the Kingdom, when it comes to bringing the Kingdom to other people, when it comes to establishing Kingdom relationships, religious views and pious convictions should not get in the way. The Kingdom and its mission and its relationships are far more important than our convictions of what we think is right or wrong. No matter how legitimate our convictions are, relationship trump rules.
Galatians 6:15 says, “Neither circumcision nor un-circumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.” What counts is the business of the Kingdom. Relationships are more important than who is right or wrong theologically and doctrinally. The ultimate wrong is the destruction of relationships.
Romans 14:15, “If because of food your brother is hurt, then, you are no longer walking according to love.” Love is the highest law, the greatest of all the commandments. “Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.” Do not destroy your brother because of differences in religious practices. Romans 14:20 says, “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.” Forget cash, the money belt, and food. What is more important is Kingdom business – our mission to bring God’s peace to people.
Jesus said, “Heal the sick and say, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Work for the healing and the wholeness of people and bring the Kingdom to them. He further said, “The one who listens to you, listens to Me. The one who rejects you, rejects Me. The one who rejects Me, rejects God the Father who sent Me.” We offer peace but it is a person's choice whether to accept or to reject. We initiate peace and love. We bring good news of the kingdom of God, but people have the choice whether to receive it or to reject it.
It takes two to make a thing work, like marriage, but it only takes one person to destroy it. Our relationship with God can grow and flourish if we cooperate and respond with love to His love, but if we reject it, then, it won’t work. The problem never lies with God because He is constantly giving us love. There is a time when after trying hard, we leave things in the hands of God. Jesus said, “Keep peace. If they reject the peace, what you do is shake the dust off your feet, and the peace will return to you.” Jesus did not threaten His persecutors; He overcame by becoming silent before His shearers as a meek Lamb.
We choose to reject or to accept. The Psalmist expressed his emotions when he said, “Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace.” St. Paul said in Romans 12, “If possible, be at peace with all men for some will reject it.” We leave it to the hands of God. We don’t ask for their destruction; we still bless them; we still pray for them.
The disciples came back victorious and rejoicing saying to Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your Name.” They remained meek as lambs in the midst of the wolves, and this is how they overcame. They would not have been victorious if they acted like wolves in the midst of wolves. Do not grow weary in following the principles of our Lord. We will be victorious one day. It may take a short or a longer time but just follow and walk in Christ’s footsteps.
Victory comes by being lambs of God. Working in His kingdom, walking in its ways, whether we realize it or not, is spiritual warfare. When we bring the kingdom of God and God’s peace to other people and evangelizing, it is already spiritual warfare. Working and walking in the Kingdom’s ways is our power over the enemy. The weapons of our warfare are not of this world. We destroy things that are against the truth of God.
Jesus said, “Do not rejoice that the demons are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” One translation says, “Rejoice that you are citizens heaven.” This means, “Rejoice, that you behave and you act and you are considered worthy as bona-fide citizens of heaven.” Citizens of heaven are peaceful, loving, and kind like their Savior. Rejoice that we are counted worthy to be described as being like our Lord. There is far more reason to rejoice than having demons subject to us. Real joy comes from acting according to our divine nature that we are sharers of. Real joy comes from being citizens of the kingdom of God. Real joy comes from being involved in the work of Jesus and the Kingdom. This is what God wants for us. This is the joy that He wants us to share. This is the joy that He wants us to enter and simply, this is just the way it is in the kingdom of our God.